December 15: The morals of the story

December 15 The morals

The morals of the story Sir, - I think that the world should begin to appreciate the moral teachings of Judaism. The torching of the Yasuf mosque by unknown vandals could easily have been ignored. However, the Jewish religion teaches that one must treat his neighbor like himself. In light of that teaching by Hillel, rabbis have expressed their sympathy for their Muslim neighbors ("Rabbis offering Korans, peace blocked at Yasuf entrance," December 14). Somehow I don't recall many such expressions of sympathy for the torching of synagogues and the wounding and death of Jewish neighbors of the Muslim communities in Israel. We all remain aware of how immoral it is to do damage to another person's religious house of worship and sensibilities. BATIA KOENIGSBERG Jerusalem Algeria: An inapt analogy Sir, - Zeki Ergas urges our Prime Minister to quit the West Bank even as de Gaulle extracted France from Algeria ("Binyamin Netanyahu as Charles de Gaulle," December 14). The analogy is inapt for at least two reasons. First, the Algerians did not intend to conquer or destroy France, whereas Hamas openly - and the PA, more covertly - seeks the elimination of the Jewish state. Withdrawal, far from solving Israel's problems, would predictably set the stage for a more total interstate conflict. Moreover, a Palestinian state, unless totally disarmed, would threaten regional, and even global, peace. Second, Frenchmen who settled in Algeria, even when they remained for more than a generation, were outside colonizers. Jews, in contrast, are integrally linked to Judea and Samaria, to Hebron and Nablus, no less than to Beersheba. They are dwellers in the land of their forefathers rather than alien "settlers." This recognition must inform any resolution of the conflict, even if a political compromise is sought on pragmatic grounds. PROF. SHLOMO SLONIM Jerusalem The pot to the kettle? Sir, - The Jerusalem Post reports that the Foreign Ministry was upset over a decision by major supermarket retailers in the UK for clearly labeling products originating in Jewish settlements ("British gov't tells stores to single out imports from settlements," December 11). Why should we expect anything less from England - or any other country, for that matter - when it comes to its perception of a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, when our own government discriminates against communities in those areas? The current building freeze is the prime example of singling out or negatively "labeling" an integral sector of the Israeli population. Before wagging its finger at anyone else, this administration needs to take a good hard look in the mirror at the damage this draconian policy is causing. JOSH HASTEN Jerusalem Hebrew education is the key Sir, - I was glad to learn of the new Hadar initiative to speak on behalf of Anglo-Israelis ("New Anglo action council aims to galvanize English-speaking Israelis," November 25). If I may, I have a programmatic suggestion for its founders, as well as to others who may join them in the future. We long ago reached the stage where Israel has more to contribute to the cultural life of the Jewish Diaspora than vice versa. Today, Israel is in an excellent position to help lift up the Jewish cultural level of Anglo Jews, and a coalition of well-placed Anglo-Israelis is even better suited to do so. In my view, the single best investment in the future of Anglo-Jewish ties to Israel would be a major increase in the teaching of Hebrew in those communities. Such an initiative would transcend almost all political and religious barriers, and would not only bring these communities permanently closer to Israel, but would surely also help promote their internal cohesion. Israel's rich know-how in Hebrew instruction is easily transferrable to the Diaspora, and Diaspora communities are in many instances searching for new ways to reach out to their constituents. Students returning from birthright programs could be steered toward Hebrew learning, and the numbers of classes, teachers and supporting cultural programs could be supported and increased in a systematic way. Leaders of the Jewish renaissance in the 20th century, across the ideological spectrum, recognized the importance of Hebrew education - from Ahad Ha'am to Vladimir Jabotinsky. The distinguished Hebrew linguist William Chomsky, here in Philadelphia, discussed its importance in detail in his 1957 study, "Hebrew, the Eternal Language." While Hadar will doubtless be busy with initiatives within Israel for Anglos, it would be well if it devoted part of its energies, perhaps in conjunction with the Jewish Agency, to a long-term investment in the future of Anglo-Jewish aliya. BENYAMIN KORN Elkins Park, PA Halacha - a longstanding tradition Sir, - I take issue with the statement in the editorial "Justice & Halacha" (December 9) that "Jewish law was never the law of the land in any period of Jewish history." Menachem Elon, the author of Mishpat Ivri (Jewish Law), comments that "for the greater part of its history of over 3,000 years, Jewish law has served the Jewish People." Two Temples existed for 830 years. The Jewish court was always a part of the Jewish commonwealths. Elon makes the point that Jews always brought their courts and Halacha with them when they journeyed throughout the Diaspora. Jewish tradition has always viewed Halacha as ennobling the human being. In fact, the Talmudic sages say (Brachot 8a) that since the destruction of the Holy Temple, God reveals himself to the world via Halacha. AARON BOROW Jerusalem A Jewish Christmas carol... Sir, - The only failing grade I ever received was in music, at Junior High School 178 in Brooklyn, in the early '40s. I did not sing Christmas carols - simply did not open my mouth - and the music teacher did not like that ("A war on Christmas?," December 13). I was also dropped from cooking class because I would not eat the treyf food, and was sent to remedial reading instead, because that was the only class meeting at the time (the boys' shop class was not an option). Many years later, in the late '70s, when my daughter was in the chorus at Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, I suggested to the chorus director that she might substitute some Gilbert and Sullivan songs for the many Christian hymns sung by the chorus. That suggestion was greeted with scorn. In her autobiography, Rosanne Barr wrote about being the only Jew in her class and asked to sing "I Have a Little Dreidel" as the ecumenical contribution at Christmas time. Here in Israel, where I expected to find no celebration of Christmas among Jews, I was distressed to be inundated with Christmas trees and carols on a visit to the Arad mall. IDA SELAVAN SCHWARCZ Ganei Omer ... and renewed faith in humanity Sir, - After watching many TV news stories of people being attacked while joggers and and other bystanders in the near vicinity do not react at all, I have to wonder what our country has come to. Then I read about the latest case, a woman crying out for help, frightened and being attacked ("IDF Capt. Erez Efrati charged with attempted rape," December 14). This time, passers-by came to her aid, causing the attacker to flee. This has renewed my faith in the good of humanity. SHEILA ROTENBERG Petah Tikva