Kudos to Emily Schrader for her article “China’s threat to a free press” (June 7). It is crucial that democratic societies understand that they must not give in to blackmail from totalitarian ideologies. It is unfortunate that after one hundred years and 100 million dead as the result of communism, these ideologues still believe that they can intimidate free societies.
Their mindset is stuck in a time warp, and they want to drag everyone into this maelstrom. We must not let that happen.
After all, as Winston Smith says in 1984, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
Before it’s too late
Herb Keinon’s “Bennett’s legitimacy deficit” (June 3) clearly outlines all the achievements of Bennett and his coalition during his one year in office. Bennett (with Lapid’s help, of course) did an outstanding job of holding the coalition together and maintaining a properly functioning government.
Everything that Bibi could have accomplished during that year, Bennett did it and, arguably, was even more successful than Bibi would have been despite Bibi’s 15 years of experience as prime minister and his fierce heckling as leader of the opposition.
Bennett took on the job knowing full well that he was risking his future in politics. He took it on only because the alternative – endless elections – would result in unacceptable repercussions. This was a huge act of patriotism by Bennett, unfortunately not appreciated by the public and even members of his own staff and party.
Keinon concluded his essay writing that Bennett failed to earn legitimacy. He certainly earned it. It’s just that the electorate is failing to give it to him. My fervent wish is that Israelis wake up before it’s too late.
Yet another feather in the cap of Israel, this time it’s natural gas (“Gas power,” editorial, June 7). If our energy minister plays her cards properly and quickly, we will be exporting natural gas to Europe and replacing (to some extent) the huge natural resources of Russia.
Our brave little country has done it again and has become a world leader in yet another field of human achievement. Yes, we can justly be proud of being world leaders in so many fields: start-up, cyber protection, pandemic control, scientific research, sports (Judo), Nobel Prizes, irrigation, milk production, the miraculous production of water from air, economic stability, etc. The list can go on and on.
We, who are but a mite in the vast and intricate global creation, have excelled far beyond our appropriate apportionment of population and geography, and we are finally becoming “a light unto the nations” which indeed is the role which was intended for us since the beginning of time.
Hands of our enemies
Regarding “Rebels MKs sink West Bank emergency bill” (June 7): Have we sunk to such lows that selfish personal interest on the part of some of our elected representatives has endangered the security of 450,000 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria, all of which is ours by right?
Surely the rebel MKs could see in advance of the vote that they are playing into the hands of our enemies.
Empathy and kindness
Regarding “‘Your nation is my nation’” (May 29): As a former teacher at the ulpan giyur (conversion program) in Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzhak in the early 1980s, I can identify with the need for a more inclusive and supportive process of conversion.
The state-recognized conversions are controlled by the Chief Rabbinate which employs stringent rules for conversion applicants. The current deputy religious services minister Matan Kahana proposed legislation that was approved by the Knesset that would attempt to cope with the growing population of close to half-a-million halachically labeled non-Jews in Israel.
The bill, which was criticized by the two chief rabbis, is backed by some leading religious Zionist rabbis and will allow regional and municipal rabbis to perform conversions. In the past, many applicants had given up their plans for conversion after discovering that the requirements were too stringent. Those who decided to continue the process of conversion had to pledge that they would be Orthodox Jews.
I personally know of a case where a young woman applying for conversion after she had completed the required course of Judaic studies in an ulpan, appeared before the judges dressed in modest attire and pledged that she would be an observant Jewess even though she later lived a secular lifestyle. She explained that it was the only way she could get the approval for her conversion.
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, founder of Hashgacha Pratit, writes that “More lenient positions exist, even within mainstream Orthodoxy,” and refers to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as having said that “in most cases a declaration of Jewish status is all that is required of olim and investigations are not halachically required.” This quote appears in his book Yabia Omer (section seven).
Soon after his retirement as the chief Sephardic rabbi from 1973 to 1983, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef witnessed the opening of the borders of the former Soviet Union. Close to a million immigrants who arrived in Israel were eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return due to patrilineal Jewish descent or married to a Jew.
The situation of the Soviet Jews was similar to that of the Holocaust survivors arriving in Israel after World War II. They had no documentation to confirm their Jewish status. The Knesset approved amendments to the Law of Return that made second and third generations eligible for aliyah to Israel.
By not granting the status of a Jew to the new immigrants, the implications would be intermarriage between non-Jews and Jews which would result in the creation of books of genealogy. That is what Rabbi Yosef wanted to avoid, and therefore only those whose lineage was doubtful were investigated.
Because of changing circumstances today, Rabbi Yosef would most likely find a less lenient approach. As Rabbi Leibowitz states, “We must accept credible declarations of Jewish descent without investigation.”
Previous rabbis followed the same path as Rabbi Ovadiah. Rabbi Isaac Herzog, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi from 1936-1959 and the Sephardic rabbi Ben-Zion Uziel dealt compassionately towards the Holocaust survivors who arrived in Israel with no identifying documents.
Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yehuda Unterman and Sephardic chief rabbi Yitzchak Nissim who served from 1964-1972 were also known for their leniency in granting Jewish status.
The Ashkenazi chief rabbi Shlomo Goren who served alongside Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef will always be remembered because of his contribution to the military by establishing conversion courts for non-Jewish soldiers or those whose Judaism was in doubt. Rabbi Goren is known for his courage and daring to stand with other great rabbis in the past who decided that in times of stress or when the majority is secular, in order to avoid intermarriage it is sufficient that the convert commit to having a kosher home and observe Jewish traditions.
Rabbi Leibowitz also quotes Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the rabbi of Har Bracha who “ruled that conversions can be considered valid even if the convert did not intend to be Orthodox.” His policy of being supportive as well as showing empathy and kindness toward the convert will eventually lead him to be a more observant Jew.
The conversion process requires acceptance of a religious lifestyle, however as we have learned from previous generations, there have always been great rabbinical adjudicators who found ways to be more lenient in acceptance of converts.
Raymond Apple alludes (“Keeping the queen,” June 7) to the perennial debates that arise in Australia about whether to retain the British monarch as head of state or to opt out and become a republic, with an Australian president, or some such. This is probably prompted by the Platinum Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II and the appointment, by the newly-elected Australian Labor Party prime minister, of a minister for the republic.
Rabbi Apple was careful to state that Australia is a constitutional monarchy (not a monarchy) and it is worth stating that the sovereign holds office as head of state, but no actual power as such. This was especially demonstrated at the time of the 1975 constitutional crisis. In practice, Her Majesty’s functions are exercised, in Australia, by the commonwealth governor-general or the governors of the states, all of whom have long been Australians.
At a time when other countries are undergoing convulsions under presidents (e.g., the US under Biden and Russia under Putin), constitutional monarchies have much for which to be commended as beacons of relative stability.
As an Australian, I come down in support of the late Labor senator Peter Walsh of Western Australia who reportedly said during one of these debates that “having a head of state who was a cardboard cutout who lived halfway around the world was not a bad way of doing things.”
MERVYN DOOBOV, OAMJerusalem
Clear and present danger
Regarding “Hostile environments for Jewish students” (June 6): It is self-evident that the more left-wing one is, the more likely they are to be anti-American, anti-white and antisemitic. The Left is centered in academia. We have to look back a century to follow the root causes of the antisemitism so prevalent today.
The 1920s saw dramatic changes. At San Remo, the victors of WW1 carved up the territories of the vanquished Germans and Turks, creating a number of Middle East mandates. The British Mandate for Palestine was held as the reconstituted Jewish homeland. In Egypt, Hussein al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, spreading Islamic nationalism with the goal of replacing the West with a caliphate. In Europe, Nazism was taking hold.
Britain named Haj Amin al-Husseini, grand mufti of Jerusalem. Britain betrayed its mandate commitments, joining the mufti in hampering Jewish, and encouraging Arab, immigration.
Al-Husseini and Hitler became allies. Al-Husseini promoted antisemitism and pogroms in the Mandate and abroad. In Germany, he established Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS units and personally intervened to send 4,000 Hungarian children to the gas chambers in Auschwitz.
Arab propaganda promoted the al-Aqsa libel, the claim Jews were destroying the mosque so they could build a Third Temple. This is taqiyya, the obligation to lie to the infidel to advance the cause of Islam.
Radical Islam has manipulated our open, western democratic societies. They bought their way into academia, using their power to demonize and delegitimize Jews and Zionism.
From 1995 to 2008, eight British universities accepted 235 million pounds from Muslim states. Between 1986 and 2018, Middle East royalty contributed over $6.5 billion to American universities. These funds significantly impact attitudes and culture.
They develop courses, provide travel abroad, conduct research and teach languages and regional expertise. These grants and fellowships come with a price: a “Palestine victimization” mindset.
CAIR, Hamas and the Muslim Students’ Associations (MSA) are part of the Brotherhood. MSA sponsors the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions and the Israel Apartheid Week movements. SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) is Hamas’s representative in our universities.
These “pro-Palestine” groups exist solely to promote an antisemitic agenda. They present a clear and present danger to Jewish students, faculty and administrators and to the population at large.
Remember the Islamist taunt, “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.” A final warning: keep an eye on critical race theory.
2 + 2 = 4
Yaakov Katz hits the nail on the head in “Don’t be afraid to hear the other side” (June 3). In fact, I would say that our politicians are quite deaf and so are many who take their respective sides.
However, Mr. Katz doesn’t address the issue of how we can increase tolerance, possibly leading to a productive discussion (if not a change of mind).
The answer does not lie in improving our math and science scores, as these subjects tend to teach absolutes, or simply 2 + 2 = 4, without room for argument. Rather, the answer lies in greater emphasis on the type of learning one receives while learning Talmud, philosophy, historical analysis, or even through a discussion of great fiction.
In other words, knowledge does not necessarily equate with wisdom, but rather wisdom comes from the perspective gained from being exposed to a range of astutely argued opinions.