A resounding ‘yes’
With all due respect to Rabbi Eliezrie’s attempt (“Is everyone to blame?” July 11) to downplay the significance of the haredi youth who “interrupted” a bar mitzvah service at the special egalitarian section of the Kotel, there were many more than just “a couple of teenagers” who certainly did a lot more than just interrupt the service.
Videos and eyewitness testimonies clearly show many young men were there, and how ferocious and demeaning their actions were. Either Eliezrie is blind to the facts, or chooses to ignore them, paying the usual lip service in condemning these teens’ actions as being reprehensible, while asking with righteous indignation whether “the rowdiness of a couple of teenagers at the Western Wall means that everyone who looks the same, supports and agrees with their acts of violence?”
How disingenuous! All the reactions he quotes are from the Reform and Conservative Jewish establishment, which was certainly to be expected. And where is his evidence that “liberal Jewish groups are using this unfortunate incident to bestow on all religious Jews collective guilt?” I am a religious Jew and certainly haven’t seen or heard any massive media blitz in the Jewish or general press condemning the entire religious world.
Quite the contrary, many Orthodox Jewish organizations and individuals have joined in rightfully condemning this horrible incident for what it was: an unjustified and violent attack on fellow Jews because their beliefs and version of Judaism does not jive with classic Jewish tradition and law. Eliezrie asks “Is everyone to blame?” I would answer a resounding “yes” with an important qualification on the term “everyone.”
Everyone in those specific haredi communities, whether rabbis, lay people, teachers, or community leaders who incited these youth is indeed to blame. These teens did not act on their own in trying to defend the faith, so to speak. They listened and enthusiastically carried out their leaders’ indignation and incitement against Jews committing what they have been taught to believe are blatant heretical acts against God and Judaism. The blanket and mass condemnation of any community for the act or acts of the few is obviously wrong, but no less wrong is to dismiss such events as just “a bunch of teens looking for trouble.”
The blame for this and all too many similar incidents lies squarely in the laps of the specific leaders who incited these youth, and unless Eliezrie and others face this fact and try to change things from within, sinat hinam – baseless hatred – will continue to dominate the Jewish world for decades to come.
GERSHON HARRISHatzor Haglilit
Primacy of the people
Contrary to Arthur Eidelman’s assertion (“Religious beliefs, not legal philosophies,” July 10), the recent US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade did not impose a specific Christian theological belief on the American public. Had the court wanted to impose fundamentalist Christian doctrine, it could have ruled outright that abortions are unconstitutional.
Eidelman engages in the logical fallacy that correlation equals causation. While the decision seemingly comports with Christian beliefs, that does not mean that it was engendered primarily by them. Laws limiting abortion rights do not infringe on Eidlelman’s religious freedoms.
Even religions that allow abortions do not mandate that all expectant mothers terminate pregnancies. Besides, not all religious leniencies must be adopted under civil law. Suppose a religion stated that people who participate in a religious celebration involving the consumption of alcohol (e.g., Purim?) are allowed to drive home even if they are inebriated. Would Eidelman argue that laws against drunk driving infringe religious freedom? No doubt, courts would recognize a paramount state interest in protecting the lives of innocent drivers and pedestrians.
Eidelman argues that “life in all its full dimension and worth begins [only] at birth!” But consider the 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act, according to which a child in utero “is a member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development,” and is a legal victim if injured during the commission of any of several federal crimes of violence. In many US states, a person who murders a pregnant woman, also killing the fetus, may be prosecuted for double homicide.
The abortion case is grounded in the justices’ fealty to the Constitution. The majority recognized that the Supreme Court is not a super legislature. Its role is to determine what the law is, with the Constitution being the supreme law of the land. The court does not determine what it would like the law to be.
Three recent Supreme Court decisions are consistent: The court found that the right to unfettered abortions is nowhere in the Constitution. Therefore, determination of citizens’ rights is left to the legislatures in each state; in a gun control case a day earlier, the court ruled that a state statute violated a right that is clearly enumerated in the Constitution – the right to bear arms; and the court has determined that the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped the authority granted to it by Congress in issuing certain regulations. Congress could easily rectify the problem by spelling out more clearly the agency’s powers.
Rather than violate religious freedom, these cases strengthen democracy. The power of unelected bureaucrats and judges is circumscribed, while the primacy of the people and their elected representatives is reinforced.
EFRAIM COHENZichron Ya’acov
Mother’s life takes precedence
Regarding “Why abortion is never stated in the Bible” (July 11): Abortion is not mentioned in the Bible, but the case of a man accidentally causing a pregnant woman to miscarry is discussed in Exodus 21:22. As long as there is no injury to the woman, other than the miscarriage, the man is required to pay a fine to the woman’s husband.
The man who accidentally caused the fetal loss is not considered a “manslayer” and does not need to flee to a city of refuge. There will be no blood-avenger in pursuit of the man; the matter would be handled differently if the pregnant woman had been injured, even unintentionally.
Exodus 21:22 is the basis for Judaism’s view that the mother’s life takes precedence over the potential life of the fetus. Although traditional Jewish law cannot be said to favor “abortion on demand,” abortion is permitted (some say “required”) if the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s life. Many rabbis also permit abortion if the mother’s mental health is threatened by the pregnancy.
Some years ago, a local newspaper carried a story about a Jewish couple, expecting their first child, who were involved in a traffic accident. The husband suffered only minor injuries, but the pregnant wife’s injuries were severe. The doctors told the husband that his wife would die if the pregnancy were allowed to continue. A local “pro-lifer” went to court, trying to obtain an injunction to prevent the hospital from terminating the pregnancy. That action was not only an infringement on the couple’s religious beliefs, but it also showed an immoral disregard for the life of the mother.
Sadly, sometimes abortion is necessary. In modern times, where women have choices other than being pregnant or nursing during their entire married lives, and many forms of contraception are available, one would hope that fewer abortions were being performed. But no woman should die because of lacking access to a safe abortion if, sadly, it is necessary to end a pregnancy in order to save her life or sanity.
TOBY F. BLOCKAtlanta
Mean what they say
With all due respect to the four former army and political officials who collaborated to write “Biden’s visit and Israel’s security” (July 12), have they and their followers not learned that the only way to deal with an implacable enemy is to defeat it? A bogus nation that looks upon the Jews as vermin, with no right to their national homeland, which teaches its children for generations to hate us, that martyrdom in slaughtering us will bring them heavenly reward, and pays their thugs to achieve that end, is very unlikely either to negotiate a truncated state or hug us warmly in friendship.
When will our leaders recognize that the people of Israel are not political dimwits? Our children and grandchildren live here and we have the desire neither to see this endless slaughter continue nor anymore hear platitudes about the wonders of a two-state solution. Has history not shown them that ruthless adversaries mean what they say and any appeasement to them is weakness? The Second World War began by misreading Hitler’s aims. Let us not make the same mistake.
EDMUND JONAHRishon Lezion
Respected international statesman
Herb Keinon’s articles are usually worth reading but his preview of the upcoming American presidential visit (“Not-so-great expectations,” July 8) seemed to me totally unrealistic.
First, as an American-born journalist, Keinon should remember that almost all American politics is internal. For the vast majority of Americans, international affairs and foreign policy are irrelevant. If he had remembered that, Keinon might have appreciated that the president is coming to Israel, Ramallah and Riyadh for one purpose only, and that is for photo-ops to convey the impression, to the rapidly diminishing support for the Democrats in the US as they approach the November elections, that their president is a respected international statesman.
It is a shame that we are debasing ourselves by giving a Presidential Medal to a man who throughout his very long and undistinguished career has not been a friend of Israel. Almost everyone I have heard comment in the past few weeks has said “I wish he wasn’t coming. We don’t need him here and we don’t want him.”
The US-Israel alliance is extremely important. We know that Obama tried very hard to break it, and the important people in the current administration are all Obama’s people, trying to continue Obama’s ideas, to the detriment of Israel and our improved relationships with our important neighbors,even as we pass by the Palestinians until they decide to change their hateful ways.
Israel should not be disappointed by this visit, because realistic Israelis have no expectations of anything of value coming from a visit that is solely intended for the American voting public.
Spinning out of control
Regarding “How can we stop babies dying in hot cars?” (July 8): The answer is – by dealing with the root of the problem rather than trying to apply bandaids. The problem is caused by stressed, distacted parents who don’t get enough sleep. Why isn’t the easy, cheap, enjoyable solution being discussed?
What is the solution? Meditation! Meditation is known to help relieve stress, lower blood pressure, relieve pain and anxiety, improve sleep, and increase equanimity, concentration, creativity and memory. Mindfulness increases awareness, counteracting automatic pilot. It also promotes serenity and an improved quality of life. Meditators inevitably have more disposable time because they don’t waste so many hours on recurring thoughts spinning out of control.
Practiced every morning at home for 20 minutes, meditation can easily be learned at a course or online; learning from a teacher is far more effective than from a book. Two excellent books, however, are Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are and Thich Nhat Hanh’s Miracle of Mindfulness.