Letters to the Editor, September 6, 2023: A good rabbi

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

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

A good rabbi

I read, with great interest, Sherwin Pomerantz’s article on the light rail system, “Operate the TA light rail on Shabbat… halachically” (September 4).

I would like to point out that Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch ruled that the light rail system in Hamburg could be ridden on Shabbat. Even today the Jews of Hamburg utilize this heter, halachic permission.

As an old friend once told me, the difference between a good banker and a good rabbi is that when asked, the banker needs to know when to say no and a good rabbi needs to find a way to say yes.

Clearly permission is possible both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – so where do we find a good rabbi? 


Petah Tikva

Sherwin Pomerantz, a very bright friend of mine, writes that the light rail should run on Shabbat but halachically. There is a principle in Judaism that just because you can do something halachically on Shabbat, you don’t have to push the envelope. For example you could leave your television running on Shabbat by leaving it on the night before, but we don’t because for many people it would spoil the Shabbat. Some of course would enjoy it, but for most Shabbat observers it would ruin the Shabbat.

Even though Tel Aviv is not Jerusalem, there are plenty of people who enjoy and keep the Shabbat. The principal of the status quo is that we are a Jewish country and we don’t publicly desecrate the Shabbat.

By separating the workforce into Jewish and non-Jewish workers, we do become a bifurcated country and by running the trains, the buses are forced to run to make them practical.

Some lines have to be made to make us special. One must keep the larger perspective that the only Jewish country does not publicly desecrate the Shabbat.


San Diego

Pulling the strings

In “Some religious Jews should repent” (August 30), Gil Troy provides his view on Trump and the American electorate: “Only fools or fanatics refuse to acknowledge how destructive Trump’s assault on American norms and the American Constitution has been.”

As Abraham said to God regarding Sodom, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” For Troy, the 75 million people who voted for Trump in 2020 are by definition beneath contempt, with no exceptions.

His obvious hatred of the former president prevents Troy from admitting the possibility that many voters support Trump because they believe in policies he advanced during his first term – e.g., border security, energy independence, reduced government regulations, respect for law enforcement, increased wages for low income workers, and a strong foreign policy (including unprecedented support for Israel). They prefer not to vote for someone who is at best a cognitively challenged figurehead for whomever is pulling the strings behind the Washington scenes, as well as the patriarch of the most corrupt political family in American history. The Biden-led assaults on constitutional rights such as freedom of expression and equal justice under the law are of no concern to Troy because Trump and Republicans are the only targets of the weaponized system of justice (for now).


Zichron Ya’acov

Worst antisemites

Kudos to Irit Tratt for her incisive analysis of the Biden-Harris administration’s two-faced approach to the Jewish people and Israel (“The Holocaust and Iran’s nuclear program,” September 3).

As Tratt pointed out so well, paying tribute to the victims of the Holocaust while enabling this generation’s worst antisemites, the terrorist tyrants of Tehran, to foment anti-Israel terrorism and threaten nuclear annihilation of the world’s only Jewish state is the height of perfidy.

That this is a deliberate strategy, as Tratt pointed out so well, to disarm Jewish opposition to Biden et al’s continued appeasement and propping up of Iran is particularly dangerous. The opportunity to forestall an Iranian nuclear arsenal is rapidly disappearing as the Iranians have already enriched an enormous amount of uranium to near weapons grade, all the while stonewalling IAEA inspections and improving the range, accuracy, and payload capacity of their nuclear warhead capable missiles. When Iran conducts its first test of a nuclear weapon, which some report may be imminent, and then miniaturizes it to be carried on one of their missiles that opportunity may vanish.That’s because the Iranian regime is following a religious imperative to wipe out those it regards as infidels, starting with Israel. Yet the Biden-Harris administration continues to believe, foolishly, that a powerful Iran can be America’s best friend and help stabilize the Middle East. If only those pesky Jewish opponents can be distracted with Holocaust memorials, so the strategy goes, the administration can get on with its misguided project of empowering Iran.

Appeasement of an expansionist fascist tyranny didn’t work out well for Neville Chamberlain in 1938, and 85 years later, failing to learn from history, Joe Biden (or at least his handlers) are trying it again. The result is likely to be painful for all, as happened the last time, and existentially dreadful for Israel’s survival. The Jewish community needs to see through this administration’s Holocaust maskirovka, realize the looming threat, and act accordingly.


Williamsville, New York

No Palestinian people

It is with the utmost disgust that I read “Students’ IDF service refusal gets complicated” (September 4). What kind of education is being given to the young people and are the parents oblivious to what’s being taught or just not bothered?

A statement signed by the high schoolers involved in the protest said: “As young women and men about to be conscripted into Israeli military service, we say no to dictatorship in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Has their school and also their parents not told them about the Land of Israel being the historic land of the Jewish people; how, and until, with the help of God, they returned to their own land, they were at the mercy of a world that hated them; how Jews suffered thousands of years of persecution culminating in the Holocaust where six million Jews including nearly  two million children were massacred in German ovens, gas chambers, and hideous experiments? 

During that time in World War Two, the Arabs fought on the side of Hitler’s Germany while Jews fought for Britain. Have they not been taught that there is no Palestinian people? It only came into being as a political ploy of the Arab League in 1967: The complete fabrication that everything here, all the indisputably Jewish archaeological discoveries, are theirs when, in fact there was no Islam until 2200 years after Judaism.

Are their heads so blocked with left-wing propaganda that they are inured to the constant calls of the “Palestinians” to destroy Israel and every Jew in it? The only illegal occupation in this very small one and only country of the Jewish people is by the Arabs who have over 20 sovereign states of their own. God help us if this is the education being given to young people with obvious little grasp on reality. We are nurturing self-destruction.



Inner beauty

Kudos to Rivka Ravitz for “Separation is not exclusion” (September 1). I didn’t grow up as an Orthodox Jew, so I have experienced both sides of the “discrimination of women” narrative. I agree with Ms. Ravitz that women, the family, and the home in general are sanctified.

Woman go to college, work outside the home, sometimes in prestigious jobs. (I read that Ms. Ravitz was a chief-of-staff for Reuven Rivlin when he was president.) But the home is the most important part of her life. 

Modest dressing and behavior are not demeaning and discriminatory, quite the opposite. These principles make it possible to get to appreciate a woman’s mind, personality, and inner beauty without the physical desires getting in the way.

It’s well known that men have more testosterone than women, and this makes them act and think differently. Judaism took this into account, and established rules and laws written to protect women. Personally, I feel secure and appreciated being a religious woman.



Comfortable prison conditions

Regarding “Gotliv: IDF, Shin Bet work for terrorists” (September 3): Palestinian arch-terrorists with Jewish blood on their hands live in comfortable prison conditions. Surely such conditions do not deter terrorism, but rather enhance new terror acts. Now National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir wants to reduce the comfort in prison, as these terrorists really deserve. But our Shin Bet insists on maintaining the good hospitality in prison. Why?

On the other hand, the same Shin Bet insists that Amiram Ben-Oliel, the convict of the Duma affair, remains in the worst solitude conditions in prison, where he has spent years already. Why this discrimination? Only because Amiram is a Jew, settler, and religious?

Maybe if Amiram converts to Islam, he will be allowed to enjoy the same comfort as these ugly arch-terrorists who enjoy life in an Israeli prison. The famous author Franz Kafka could have written a novel on this cruel absurdity.



Haunting memories

Recalling the Munich massacre” (September 5) covers a very dark anniversary and must bring back shocking and haunting memories for Israeli families whose loved ones were at the mercy of terrorists five decades ago. It also reminds me of my own attendance at the Munich Olympics which I recollect most clearly, especially the day of the massacre when I witnessed firsthand the authorities racing toward the Olympic Village.

I was leaving the area at the time to drive to the airport for my return to London and as flights were heavily delayed, I watched in horror on the TV screens as the events unfolded.

What amazed me perhaps naively was that there was no consideration to abandon the games after such a heinous murderous act, just a short delay and a little hand-wringing with a message that the Olympian ideals must carry on.

In subsequent games there was scant recognition of that very tragic day. I’m sorry to say the world has very short memories and until the long overdue acknowledgment in Japan, any hope we had that they would even attempt to remember the murder of innocent athletes appeared to be a futile exercise.

As we in Israel witness, the press and media outside our own environment rarely comment on the ongoing terrorist acts which we unfortunately continue to experience.


Tel Aviv

Going about business

Regarding “Netanyahu chastises Cohen over Libya, as FM lands in Bahrain” (September 4): I’m rather pleasantly surprised that Prime Minister Netanyahu made no attempt to spin the Eli Cohen fiasco into some sort of diplomatic achievement. Of course, the public scolding might have been more effective and meaningful had his statement been made to an Israeli television station rather than one in Cyprus, but the message was significant nonetheless.

Was it, though, enough? Cohen’s flagrant indiscretion not only jeopardized potential normalization with Libya, it also left Israel’s Foreign Ministry looking like a club of clueless amateurs. With Cohen at the helm, perhaps that’s an accurate conclusion.

I am reminded of the incident that took place nearly fifteen years ago when deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon crowed about how he intentionally sat Turkey’s ambassador to Israel on a low seat to express anger of the Turkish president’s criticism over what was perceived to be undue force over the Palestinians. The international backlash at the insult was thunderous.

There is no room for childish stunts or purposefully offensive behavior in the theater of foreign diplomacy at the ministry level. Ayalon needlessly hurt both himself and Israel by taking uncoordinated action against an official representative of a friendly if somewhat abrasive nation.

So, how to deal with Cohen? It seems he is going about his business as if this foul-up never occurred. That he ruined the career and endangered the life of Najla Mangoush appears to be of little concern. More importantly, the brownie points he expected for his initiative and statesmanlike proactivity have soured. Cohen will, quite rightly, never again be trusted.

The prime minister can ill afford having Cohen sit at the cabinet table. When Netanyahu said he would fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for expressing the opinion that the judicial reforms should be set aside for a while, the response was immediate and the prime minister was forced to reconsider. I somehow don’t think the sacking of Eli Cohen would result in too much heartburn.


Ginot Shomron