I found Hanan Alexander’s “Enemies or friends?” (May 1) enlightening. Judaism and democracy are indeed sometimes at odds, both in Israel and the Diaspora. But in Israel there is an added element.
Looking around at all the other countries in the Middle East, where dictatorship, benign or otherwise, is the order of the day, the extremists in Israel have begun to realize that Israel is ripe for a new melding of Judaism and government.
If all it takes is 61 votes, and you have 61 votes, why not “fix” the system? Or failing that, change it to meet the needs of your perceived constituents.
And perhaps Prime Minister Netanyahu realizes this as well. Why fight the courts and the legal system when you can mold them or dissolve their efficacy with just 61 votes?
Judaism and democracy may not be friends, but perhaps Judaism and (benign) dictatorship can be?
Israel has been both a Jewish and a democratic state since 1948, and it will remain so forever. The Israeli communities built in the disputed territories have no impact on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel’s Arab neighbors waged wars of genocide against the Jews in 1948 and 1967, before there were any so-called settlements. So, what were those wars about? They were about hatred for infidels. They were about the destruction of Israel in any borders.
In spite of the hostility surrounding it, Israel is a liberal democracy. All citizens enjoy the same rights and obligations. They all have political parties, members in the Knesset, and judges on the Supreme Court. All citizens go to the same hospitals as doctors, nurses and patients. Israeli Arabs are over-represented in its universities.
Arabs in Gaza are under the brutal control of Hamas. Almost all West Bank Arabs are administered by the Palestinian Authority. They are not Israelis, nor are they under Israeli law. There is some security cooperation between the PA and Israel, as per the Oslo accords.
Israel does not “occupy” what is its sovereign territory under international law. The PA and Hamas don’t talk to each other and they certainly don’t talk to Israel about peace. Their schools, mosques and media teach hatred and death for Jews. They allow no possibility for peaceful coexistence.
Any time the Arabs change their minds, their people can aspire to the standards that Israel enjoys. New PA leadership may be amenable to change.
Till then, Israel will remain the technical epicenter of the world. It will be Jewish and democratic. It will continue to be the fourth happiest country in the world for its Jewish and Arab citizens. Only under democracy can freedom and capitalism thrive.
Respect and dignity
Regarding “What do we mean by tolerance?” (May 1): Donald Sweeting describes four different variations of tolerance – some more honorable than others – without recognizing the fundamental defect of the concept.
There are strong elements of superiority and condescension in tolerating someone else’s views or actions. Synonyms of “tolerate” include allow, permit, put up with and endure. Tolerance is accorded as a concession that may be withdrawn at any time. Those who flaunt their tolerance of others are really implying, “You may live as you wish only so long as I give you permission to do so.”
There is a flipside to this position of dominance: Those who seek tolerance demonstrate their own frailty and inequality. It is an acceptance of Dhimmitude, suggesting a lack of power to freely express one’s essence without the indulgence of our betters.
Sweeting concludes by explaining the aim of the new, unfortunately named, Museum of Tolerance located in Jerusalem: “It will celebrate the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy by promoting universal respect and advancing tolerance [there’s that word again] and human dignity for all.”
The museum, a creation of the irreproachable Simon Wiesenthal Center, promises to make an important contribution to the fight against antisemitism. It should have been called the Museum of Respect and Dignity.
Israel and the Jewish people deserve sincere recognition and respect for our uniqueness, along with deep appreciation for the contributions we have made to all mankind – contributions that are now so ingrained in modern society that their original source has been forgotten.
Our dignity and pride are grounded in our membership in a people that has survived for millennia, flourishing against all odds. Meekly accepting the “tolerance” of others diminishes our own nobility.
I was delighted to read of Gershon Baskin’s plans (“A party for all citizens,” April 30). The few votes that his grandiose plan will garner – and I am prepared to bet my bottom shekel that he will not achieve the necessary minimum – will be to the detriment of an existing anti-Zionist party.
Bring it on Gershon.
I love Alan Dershowitz, but in “Protests about the judiciary” (April 30), his sympathies seem to have distorted his narrative. He calls the protests against judicial reform “models of civility and peacefulness” and says the protesters have “behaved admirably,” being “nonviolent and respectful.”
The protesters, whether you agree with their cause or not, have burst through police barricades, repeatedly disrupted highway travel, and even lit bonfires on the traffic lanes. Their shouts of “shame, shame, shame” and the large “Crime Minister” banner that the news camera catches are, not mildly and not unintentionally, disrespectful.
Anyone who supports their belligerence should honestly stand up for it rather than pretending that it doesn’t exist.
MARK L. LEVINSON
The wrong hands
Broadening the right to bear arms is a contentious issue that demands greater deliberation than a gut reaction to terrorism (“‘Combat reservists, firefighters should not need firearms interviews,”’ May 1).
I understand the feelings of helplessness and frustration resulting from vile acts of terrorism and I’m not unsympathetic to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s call to lessen the restrictions on owning firearms or to relax the process and procedures for issuing relevant licenses (gun license protocol), but I am concerned that guns will inevitably fall into the wrong hands.
In parallel, the government will be forced to reevaluate and modify existing legislation relating to accidental and unintentional injuries, incorrect perception of provocations and threats, and mistaken identity. After all, unless the holder of a gun fears no reprisal from using it, neither the firearm nor the license serves any purpose.
Other directions for combating terrorism must be fully explored before turning Israel into something like the American West in the nineteenth century. Might it not be more sensible to increase the number of police trained specifically in the recognition and control of urban terrorism rather than have a greater number of guns holstered on belts or buried in handbags?
I doubt very much that a reliable model can be built projecting the number of civilian fatalities that can potentially be prevented if firearms were more readily available, so it would be pointless to even speculate. I’m not sure, though, that the number – whatever it may be – justifies the risks associated with inexperienced holders of firearms.
There is ample evidence of violence throughout our society – on the roads, in medical facilities and schools, and in domestic households. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Ben-Gvir’s proposal would hermetically keep someone psychotic or emotionally immature from owning a firearm.
Some serious thinking is necessary.
Regarding the editorial “Making Israel liveable” (May 2): It is stated that young couples especially are having difficulty purchasing apartments, and that new apartment prices are 12.7% higher than they were at the same point last year. Although I have no confirmed official statistics, I can say from personal experience in Canada and the US that only in Israel are young couples expected to buy apartments immediately or close by in time thereafter when they are struggling with raising young families and are on starting salaries.
In most other countries, most young couples rent apartments until they are on solid financial ground. The problem in Israel is that there is less construction based on rentals. That is a subject which should be addressed by the government instead of expecting a young couple to bear the burden of heavy mortgage payments on multi-million shekel purchases of apartments.
Another factor is the reluctance of young couples and even older couples as well to reside in the so-called periphery which is only about a 30-60 minute distance from the major urban centers. It is another purely Israeli anomaly.
In most other countries, people think nothing of spending an hour or so driving back and forth to work. A case in point is my sister-in-law who lives in New Jersey, and spends an hour one way to her work in Downtown Manhattan.
Regarding “PM vows ‘full backing’ for judicial change compromise” (May 1): Israelis must face the hard reality that, except for a tiny minority, haredim will never accept conscription into the IDF. Other than the fear of loss of limb and life, Heaven forbid, there are the issues of women in the army and that time spent serving in the army is time squandered from learning Torah.
Haredim do not glorify physical strength and physical bravery unlike the Zionists who boost the Maccabiah Games and exalt Israel’s war heroes. The Passover issue of Hamodia, a popular English haredi weekly, published in New York, reprinted an astonishing article from a decade ago.
For a long time, it was believed that Rabbi Menachem Ziemba, a leading haredi sage, who was in the Warsaw Ghetto, gave his blessing to the uprising. The article demolished the myth that he endorsed armed resistance.
For haredim, the only bravery is spiritual resistance, rigidly observing the Torah even in the face of the enemy. Indeed, the uprising is not celebrated among haredim, including its glorious hero Mordechai Anielewicz. Both Ziemba and Anielewicz were murdered by the Nazis in the uprising.
Two decades ago, I wrote an article for The Forward, a New York Jewish weekly, on powerlifter Amy Weisberger, the strongest Jewish woman in America. At a bodyweight of 147 lbs., she squatted a world record 590 lbs. Just like there are no articles in the haredi press lauding Jewish scientific and literary achievements, my piece could never have been printed there because haredim belittle physical strength as a Hellenistic concept and the muscular Judaism advocated by the Zionist leader Max Nordau.
However, the Torah notes Jacob’s strength when he rolled over a heavy stone covering the well (Genesis 29:10), and Moses’s courage when he stood up to the shepherds who drove away the seven daughters of Jethro and helped them water the flock (Exodus 2:17). Of course, non-Jews are versed in the popular biblical stories of David who killed Goliath, and of Samson.
In March 2014, haredim boasted that more than 700,000 demonstrated against the IDF draft in Jerusalem and that this was the largest Jewish crowd since the destruction of the Second Temple, two thousand years ago. This was the first time since then that the special blessing upon seeing 600,000 or more Jews was recited!