Letters to the Editor September 5, 2022: Superfluous energies

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

 Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Superfluous energies

The article headlined “Two hurt in stone-throwing at anti-Netanyahu rally” (September 4) brought back memories of those horrible evenings (mostly on Saturday nights, but sometimes during Shabbat itself) when we, the peace-loving residents of Rehavia and Talbiyeh were treated to the sound-blasting of pots and pans, loudspeakers, screams and shouts for hours on end, and for two full years in the so-called exercise of the “democratic right” of demonstration, outside the Prime Minister’s Residence at Balfour Street. 

You mention that MK Yair Golan, a deputy minister, describes those against whom the rally was aimed as “the anti-democratic violent Right.” Well, Mr. Golan, you should be aware that the basis of democracy is the right of the people to vote and elect the representatives whom they choose. If he and his followers want to get rid of Bibi, let them divert their superfluous energies from ear-splitting rallies and go around the country canvassing for their “anyone but Bibi” candidates. Let them hold parlor meetings to explain their ideas in community discussions, etc.

The fact is, as the recent surveys clearly show, the majority of people hunger for the firm hand and the leadership and statesmanship which they have been missing recently. I do believe that the present mode of activity of MK Golan and the remnants of his disciples actually increases the chances of Bibi’s return, rather than preventing it.



To honor the Shabbat

Last week, The Jerusalem Post ran an editorial promoting the light rail in Tel Aviv running seven days a week (“7 days a week,” August 28), words carefully chosen so that you wouldn’t have to mention the inconvenient truth that this means running public transportation on Shabbat.

This week, the Post ran an op-ed article by Uri Keidar (“An act of sabotage against the Israeli public,” September 4), graduating from not running public transport on Shabbat to a siege to the level of sabotage. Sabotage? As if Arabs were blowing up our train tracks?

Do I detect a small pattern here? I wrote last week in response to your editorial, so this new comment requires a response as well. Trains and buses in Israel don’t run on Shabbat and holidays. Does the fact that a new NIS 42 billion is being spent on the new light rail change any facts? 

The writer has made up his mind that “in the name of antiquated status quo” which no longer exists, we should run the trains on Shabbat. I and the Jewish people have to disagree just as strongly that the status quo is not antiquated and we have a purpose in not running public transportation on Shabbat. This is neither a siege nor sabotage.

How can such strong words be accepted based on a basic fact? We don’t run public transport on Shabbat to honor the Shabbat, and to allow workers to not break the Shabbat. One day electric trains may be allowed on Shabbat (as opposed to gas vehicles which have different Shabbat restrictions). Until that time comes we have a competing value to running public transportation on Shabbat.

Contrary to this op-ed article, an immediate decision is not necessary to change the status quo and this is not an act of political cowardice or a lack of vision or a disconnect with the Israeli public, just because the article writer says it is. The only siege or sabotage underway is against Shabbat by those who don’t want to hold it or respect those who do.

As I travel around Israel, tourists constantly tell me how amazed they are by the Land of Israel and how Shabbat is kept. If we are just like any other country and our Jewish values are not celebrated, why should these tourists come? There would be a significant cost to this as well.

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is a line from the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. The writer claims that an overwhelming or maybe underwhelming majority of the people (“more than 70% in all recent polls,” he says without any backup) want a change.

We have kept the status quo because a majority of people believe that Israel is the one country in the world where Jewish values are maintained, and Shabbat is one of our main values. “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews,” in the words of Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg, poet, philosopher, 1856-1927).

As a rabbi, I try to respect all people’s opinions, but using words that disregard the facts and try to incite the Jewish people against each other must be responded to with true facts, not just biased opinions.



A house of cards

In regard to “What the Rebbe knew that Gorbachev didn’t,” by Rabbi David Eliezrie (September 4): The late Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson’s work for Soviet Jewry is legendary, as well as his amazing insights and predictions regarding their eventual release from the Soviet Union. I personally knew another individual, the late Professor Leon Shapiro (1905, Kiev-1984, New York), who also predicted something about the Soviet Union that seemed unbelievable at the time.

I had the privilege of being his student at Rutgers University in 1973 as a Hebraic studies major. Though extremely modest, his wealth and breadth of knowledge and insights about both pre- and post-Communist Russia were amazing, and in fact he was part of that history, having been expelled from the Soviet Union to then Palestine in 1923 for anti-Soviet activities (nicknamed “cosmopolitans” at the time).

He reached the US in 1941, was active in helping Jews escape Nazi-occupied Europe and later Soviet Jews to Israel. He spoke seven languages fluently, and always fascinated the class with his stories and analysis of Czarist and Soviet Jewish history. In one of his lectures on the development of the Soviet Union and its attitude toward Jews, Professor Shapiro rather matter-of-factly said to us – and I am almost directly quoting him: My dear students, I do not know if it will be in my lifetime, but it will certainly be in yours, that the Soviet Union will collapse like a house of cards!

Obviously, we were all amazed by this prediction, and I think most remained rather skeptical and even disbelieving. Imagine, then, my amazement when the news broke in August 1991 about the failed coup against Gorbachev and the immediate collapse of the USSR, and I simply stood in awe of Professor Shapiro’s truly prophetic words.

He may not be as famous as the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, but certainly had certain predictive powers as well.


Hatzor Haglilit

Status of political arbiter

Regarding “Pollard’s sharp shift away from Shaked,” by Ruthie Blum (September 2): I am puzzled by the recent interjection of the name of Jonathan Pollard into the Israeli political scene.

Whereas human compassion dictates that he be welcomed here with open arms after serving a long and difficult prison sentence, elevating him to the status of political arbiter does not, in my opinion, serve him or any candidate well.

The use of his name in any political campaign can only complicate an already contentious election process.


Beit Shemesh

Short of its goal

In regard to “In Basel, was there a reclamation of Zionism?” by Zvika Klein (September 2): If the core purpose of the World Zionist Organization convocation in Basel was to build stronger ties with Diaspora Jewry, the assemblage fell short of its goal. The success of the State of Israel has always depended upon affinity with Diaspora Jews at the individual personal level no less than at the organizational level.

The invitation-only Basel conference placed obstacles to cultivating such individual ties by making itself largely inaccessible to the ordinary interested Diaspora Jew, even with the availability of Internet technologies whose usage have gained broad acceptance and familiarity during the COVID pandemic.

Many ordinary Diaspora Jews have expressed disgust at the reported multi-million dollar price tag of the conference, and now justifiably question why the WZO merits their financial support which otherwise can be directed to organizations that help the needy Jews in Israel. This would not be so bad if local pro-Israel groups who had no say-so in running the Basel conference were not now being lumped together with the WZO in the ordinary Diaspora Jews’ charitable donation decisions.

The WZO needs to own the poor decisions that were made in staging the conference. This is not to say that any WZO officers should or should not be compelled to resign; the focus needs to be upon moving forward with lessons learned from the unintended consequences, so that Israel-Diaspora relationships might be optimized.

The invitees to the Basel conference reportedly paid a relatively token sum in order to attend the heavily subsidized affair. It now would behoove those attendees to donate, from their own purses, amounts equal or greater to the excess fair market value of the transportation, lodgings, meals, entertainment and swag they received for their conference attendance, to local Diaspora Zionist groups and/or organizations which assist Jews who have made aliyah.


Petah Tikva

Leave well enough alone

Here’s hoping the current US administration stays the course (“Palestinians urge US not to block UN bid,” (September 2). As the article explains, the Palestinian Authority pressed its request to upgrade its United Nations membership from non-member observer status to full membership, at a meeting between PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr. What I would have given to have been the proverbial fly on the wall of that meeting. Jerusalem Post columnist Ruthie Blum has described Amr as a “foreign-policy wonk with a history of blatant hostility to Israel and sympathy for Hamas” (February 26, 2021).

Amr’s former boss John Kerry gave lots of creds to the PA following his exceptional and desperate efforts in trying to forge a peace deal between the PA and Israel, severely warning Israel at the end of his efforts that peace with the Arab world would only flow after peace with the Palestinians was achieved. How wrong could he have been?

Despite the many changes US President Biden made to all things Trumpian, he realized the global significance of the Abraham Accords, and has seen fit to leave well enough alone. Biden has now embarked on his serious campaigning for the midterm elections, and who knows what his fortunes will be leading up to 2024? It’s hard to see him wading into the danger zone, so to speak.

As a footnote, it is hard for someone my age to erase the memory of seeing arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat address the UN General Assembly in November 1974 when he lectured the assembly in his famous speech about “the olive tree branch and the freedom-fighter’s gun.” The cause of the Palestinian people has not advanced a great deal since that time.

Before the PA can become a full member, it needs to aver its terrorist roots, stopping the financial rewards to their domestic terrorists for slaying innocent Israelis, and also to get away from the dead end of UNRWA and its inculcation of hate and support of multi-generational refugees.



Misguided, misleading and mistaken

In his op-ed article of September 2, “Where is government  accountability,” editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz opines that by not taking responsibility and resigning over the Mount Meron disaster, the prime minister and the police commissioner are setting up conditions for the next tragedy.

We can all agree that no matter what could have been done by the prime minister or the police commissioner before Lag Ba’omer, nothing would have stopped tens of thousands of young eager haredim from celebrating at Mount Meron last year. After all, this same celebration had been going on for over a hundred years and despite dire warnings by the ombudsman, nothing catastrophic had occurred. It was the haredi politicians like Aryeh Deri who pressured the police into allowing unfettered access onto the site.

Blaming the prime minister and police commissioner for this disaster is misguided, misleading and mistaken. The prime minister is tasked with defending us from our myriad enemies as is the police commissioner. It was only ten days later that the Guardian of the Walls war broke out.

No mention has been made of MK Deri, then serving as interior minister, or the religious services minister whose direct task it was to guarantee everyone’s safety.

It is up to the haredi community to punish its leaders for failing to give the proper leadership. Have we forgotten the other tragedy at Karlin Stolin (May 16, 2021) when bleachers collapsed, killing two of the hassidim?

Are the prime minister and police commissioner responsible for that tragedy as well?


Petah Tikva