Letters to the editor, December 5

Jerusalem of asphalt Sir, - Yosef Goell overlooks the only sensible option for holding Jerusalem's population - building up, like any other great city ("Will Bush stand by Sharon?" December 4). As he notes, expanding eastwards is politically sensitive and expanding westward is environmentally and economically destructive. There already are, in Jerusalem, lands and dwellings which would enable population expansion in the heart of the city. The Safdie plan, which means asphalting the hills west of Jerusalem, is not only criminally destructive to historical landscapes but is actually a poorly-disguised plan for disengaging from the city center. It means the flight of the middle and upper classes from the heart of Jerusalem and a decision to abandon the poor. The billions that would go to contractors and road builders implementing the plan should go to strengthening education and other essential city services and drawing the middle class and younger couples back into the city's heart. The Safdie plan explicitly means much more road building and traffic going around and into the city. It means more urban sprawl, air pollution, road injury and destruction of what is left of its green lungs; which is why I, as a physician, oppose it. Jerusalem would become an asphalt jungle and its hills an asphalt moonscape. PROF. ELIHU D RICHTER, MD Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health Jerusalem Roots of the Shoah Sir, - Judy Montagu's most memorable words in "Less than joyful in Germany" (December 4) were surely "the clench of history" that Jewish visitors feel with a slight "tensing of the shoulders" and "a merest holding of the breath." Yet the reason why the Shoah will not go away does not reside in Germany and with Germans alone. There is another matter: Church history and teachings against the Jews since the time of the emperor Hadrian. And the sad and inescapable truth is that children everywhere find it, in Angela's words, "very hard to believe" and to understand. NIEL HIRSCHSON Tel Aviv Jewish intelligence Sir, - Ashkenazi Jews are certainly not genetically intellectually superior to other people ("Are Jews born smart?" November 29). Jeremy Maissel lists Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld as examples of Ashkenazi brilliance; as an Ashkenazi myself, I must be dense because I fail to understand their humor. If the prime use of intelligence is for survival in a harsh world, how did the Jews in Europe allow themselves to be misled by their rabbis into not returning to their homeland and establishing an army, staying instead to suffer endless persecution in foreign countries, culminating in the Holocaust? Now that we have a Jewish state that makes us proud, a hugely disproportionate number of Jews try to precipitate its ruin by instigating hatred against it. Smart? JACOB MENDLOVIC Toronto Sir, - Which Jew was "smarter" - Maimonides the Sephardi, or the Ashkenazi Satmar Rebbe? JOE COHEN Kibbutz Shluhot Ain't necessarily so Sir, - Your correspondence of December 4 contained several letters with a similar theme: that the political realignments following Ariel Sharon's formation of a new party reflect individual attempts by politicians to further their own careers without following party ideals or values. While this may be true for some politicians, it certainly is not for many others, including Sharon. Israel is in a very different situation to all other democracies in that it faces continuous threats to its existence, and the present realignment is related to opposing views on how to deal with these threats in the long term. While we are all aware of the lack of honesty on the part of some politicians, there remain many who, while searching for the best way to ensure our continued existence, may understandably change their ideas. I submit that in the election voters should cast their votes for the party whose foreign policy they believe will offer us the greatest security. A mix in a centrist party will include those with traditional "leftist" and "rightist" views, ensuring healthy discussion of vital internal issues such as education, health and poverty control. MONTY M. ZION Tel Mond Peres's position... Sir, - You report that in the event Ariel Sharon is reelected Shimon Peres will be appointed to take charge of peace negotiations with the Palestinians ("Peres leaves Labor, joins Sharon's 'coalition for peace,'" December 1). Question: Who will represent Israel's interests in such negotiations? PENINA KUTNER Jerusalem ...must not be mocked Sir, - I was shocked to read of top Labor leaders' vitriolic comments about Shimon Peres ("Labor officials say good riddance to Peres," November 29). These people shame the Labor Party. Whether or not you agree with his politics or like him as a person, Peres is an old man who has served his party and country long and faithfully. I hope these comments cost the party votes. They would in any other country. If these politicians really represent Labor's view, it is not fit to run the country. For the record, I am not a Peres fan. CAROLINE MACKERSEY Auckland, New Zealand Help! Sir, - Of the parties standing for election, the Likud ("Unity") is in disarray, Kadima ("Forward") advocates withdrawals, the head of the Labor party is famous for organizing work stoppages, the National Religious Party recently hinted that it no longer requires its candidates to be religious, Meretz ("Energy") has run out of steam, and Shinui ("Change") doesn't have anything new to offer. What's a voter to do? YONATAN SILVER Jerusalem For true government Sir, - With our political system in a mess wouldn't it be wonderful to have a Knesset which could continue to function at least until our leaders decide, like Abbott and Costello, "who's on first?" This could be possible if we had a Knesset elected by direct representation, a true government "of the people, for the people and by the people." For the first time in many years such a plan could succeed under the prestigious and practical committees created by President Moshe Katsav, with implementation by the Citizens' Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI). We are seeking volunteers to join this grassroots public effort. Please contact us at Elaine@Kedumim.co.il STUART PALMER AND ELAINE LEVITT Co-chairmen, CECI Migdal Tefen Judge for yourself Sir, - I cannot understand the apparent reluctance and heavy hearts with which Judge Hila Cohen was dismissed ("First judge fired in Israel's history," December 2). Now I hear she is being shown consideration in determination of her pension. etc. Is there something we don't know? MIKE COHEN Ra'anana Thoughts on an execution Sir, - Re last week's execution in Singapore of Nguyen Tuong Van, a convicted drug runner, and Singapore's widely-excoriated stand against the illicit drug trade ("Aussie outrage at Singapore hanging," December 2), what would have been the fatal reaction toll caused by those 26,000 doses of heroin Mr. Nguyen was reportedly attempting to smuggle through Singapore's airport, bound for Australia? How many lives would Australia have lost, and how many could Singapore expect to forfeit by casting aside its protective drug laws and adopting the fatally ineffective approaches common elsewhere? And how many young people will be saved by the fact that the Nguyen execution, in providing so strong a disincentive to drug runners, helps make misery and death a bit harder to purchase on the streets of Sydney? Just one life saved will be a fair trade for Mr. Nguyen's; two such lives will represent a premium. RON GOODDEN Atlanta Reliable definition of our identity Sir, - The Orthodox rabbis who initially created the standard of criteria for "Who is a Jew" empowered Jewish women, created clarity and strengthened Jewish communities throughout the world. The State of Israel would be best served by continuing that tradition rather than opening the doorway to myriad halachic and legal problems by adopting alternative definitions. Conservative and Reform rabbis who tampered with this definition were pressured by forces of assimilation outside Israel. As our Jewish state, Israel does not face the same set of pressures. Reform and Conservative rabbis who utilized an alternative definition opened the door to a new generation of thousands of children who celebrate Christmas and Hanukka equally, Easter and Pessah equally and perceive themselves as Jewish. This is a genuine and confusing problem. Conservative and Reform rabbis should assume responsibility for the fractionalism they have created, and Israel would be wise to seriously consider the products of these decisions before adopting a new system. We need a reliable and cohesive definition of our identity. More importantly, we need a fundamental appreciation of our history and our lawmakers ("Reform and Conservative movements launch final campaign in conversion fight," November 10). JOY ROTHENBERG Ra'anana Real books Sir, - Well, Naomi S. Baron, not all of us are alliterate! ("Read, read, or click, scroll, click?" December 1.) Our school library has established an intensive and successful program which encourages students to read for enjoyment. Our English department encourages reading novels throughout the year, often followed up with a creative book report project. If we continue to encourage students to read when they are younger, college professors won't be faced with students refusing to do their required reading assignments using real books. CHAYA HEUMAN English Teacher Ulpanat Lehava Kedumim