August 24: The best they can

One can hardly expect the Polish government to accept its official forms in a foreign language.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The best they can
The article “Holocaust restitution advocates criticize onerous Polish bureaucracy” (August 21) expresses serious concerns about delays that, hopefully, will soon find a satisfactory solution. However, the quarrels are hardly caused by the Polish government, which is one of Israel’s best friends in Europe today.
After Poland’s liberation from the Soviets, efforts to determine the location of synagogues, schools, hospitals and old-age homes that had belonged to the pre-war Jewish community posed a major difficulty.
Those of our people who perished did not take with them tax receipts or documentation, and many of their heirs have little knowledge of the details.
Polish government facilities underwent heavy bombardment in 1939 by the Germans, and again in 1945 by the Russians. The occupation regimes cared little about old maps as they revamped property lines and ownership rights according to their desire. Such was common under Communism.
My personal experience is an example.
Our family owned a house and a fairly large area of land near a large Polish city. When I came back 50 years after the war, a street bisected the land; one side had become a state forest, and the other, having been confiscated during the war by an SS officer, had now been annexed by a Polish farmer. The area where our house once stood now had a Catholic religious monument and prayer garden.
Polish governmental forms must be filled out in Polish; such requirements should be expected. I had to do it, and I received my Polish birth certificate as well as confirmation of Polish citizenship accordingly.
There are translation organizations as well as recognized lawyers in Israel who can help for small fees. One can hardly expect the Polish government to accept its official forms in a foreign language.
A house divided
With regard to “Jewish division” (Editorial, August 21), the wisest of kings, King Solomon, wrote in Ecclesiastes 2,500 years ago: “There is nothing new under the sun.” What is happening in America mirrors what happened at almost the beginning of the establishment of the first state of Israel.
In the Kingdom of Israel, some 500 years after the Exodus, the first division came about when 10 tribes seceded and established the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam, while the Southern Kingdom consisted of the remaining tribes, Judah and Benjamin, ruled by the descendants of David.
The people of the Northern Kingdom, seduced by the surrounding nations, relaxed their adherence to Judaism, so when the Assyrians captured them and sent them into exile without a basis for Judaism, they assimilated and disappeared. When the Southern Kingdom later went into exile, its inhabitants, because of their strong adherence to Judaism, established a thriving Jewish community and the powerful Jewish academies of Babylon, which survived for 2,500 years until destroyed by the Muslims after 1948.
Throughout Jewish history there have been differences and divisions. They have been between the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Karaites and Rabbanites, Hassidim and Misnagdim, and so on. In America, much of this division has been between the Reform and Conservatives, on one hand, and the Orthodox on the other.
Over the years, those in the US who have disagreed with mainstream Judaism, which today is identified as Orthodox, and have abandoned mainstream beliefs, have withered and disappeared as Jews.
Beit Shemesh
To the many differences you cite in your editorial between liberal and more conservative American Jews, I should want to add another, and most critical, difference: Religiously affiliated American Jews can be projected as having a significantly higher percentage of Jewish grandchildren than their liberal brothers.
Trump as symptom
Amotz Asa-El (“The decadence of American politics,” Center Field, August 21) says Donald Trump is dominating the polls in the US because American politics is ill.
With all due respect, that is political science talk. Trump is dominating the polls because he is popular. It is not American politics that is sick. It is the American people, both spiritually and morally.
Israelis might be too close to see it, and also too inclined to self-criticism, but Israel is one of the healthiest countries in the world. This is not because of the superiority of its politics – which is a shambles compared with American politics. Israel is healthy because its people are healthy.
A good look here
Caroline B. Glick’s “The power of Jewish indignation” (Column One, August 21) takes a good look at what’s going on oversees concerning anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing in general. How about a nice long column about the same problem here in Israel, directed at our Jewish population by our own right-wing government? Citizens are being rounded up because they are suspected of being extremists. Jews are allowed up to the Temple Mount 12 at a time, being checked by police as if they’re criminals, and then being arrested there for wearing prayer fringes. Meanwhile, Muslims scream and throw rocks and sticks, and the police (our police!) do nothing to protect us. All of this takes place under the watchful eyes of our government! I want to feel protected in my own country. Why do I have to fight for basic Jewish rights here? We no longer have to pay lip service to other governments, and I think they would actually show us respect if we stood up to their bullying instead of handing over our lunch money.
Anti-Semitism will always exist outside Israel, but do we have to be anti-Jewish in our own country?
Conspicuous omission
Isi Leibler’s “Jews and the Lucky Country” (Candidly Speaking, August 20) makes a conspicuous omission in the Jews he mentions “who played a major role in public life.”
Sir John Monash is considered by many as perhaps the greatest Australian of all time. He was the first Australian-born commander of the Australian Corps, whose brilliant tactics in World War I played a major role in the Allies’ victory. He was highly decorated by many countries.
As a civil engineer, Monash oversaw the building of many important bridges over the Yarra River in Melbourne, the planning of railway systems throughout Australia, and the use of brown coal for electricity in the state of Victoria.
He was also a successful lawyer.
Today there is the Monash University and the Monash suburb in Canberra. What’s more, John Monash is depicted on Australia’s highest value currency, the $100 note.
No doubt because of his legacy, anti-Semitism in Australia was lowkey for many years.
Bnei Dror
Judges, not rulers
In recent weeks, we’ve been hearing a lot about the High Court of Justice engaging in political affairs, like the African refugee problem, the fate of a detained terrorist on a hunger strike, and buildings in Beit El. Now it wants to knock down a synagogue in Givat Ze’ev (“PM: Don’t raze Givat Ze’ev synagogue until after Succot,” August 20).
We do not hear about the justices convening as the Supreme Court to hear appeals, most notably that of former prime minister Ehud Olmert. This matter has been dragging on for several months, but they apparently have no time because they are too involved in political matters.
Esteemed justices, you were appointed to judge, not to rule.