December 31, 2018: Diminishing returns

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Diminishing returns
In “After Pluto” (December 30), the writer describes the space explorations of the New Horizons spacecraft.
In 1492, Columbus set off from Spain in the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Columbus had no idea what was in store for him and it is said that he and his shipmates feared that they would fall off of the edge of the earth, which was presumed flat. Columbus discovered parts of the western continents, which changed the history of human civilization on our planet.
More than 500 years later, New Horizons knows what it is about to explore: an icy rock, 30 km. across, called Ultima Thule some six billion km. from Earth. Thule will be photographed and spectroscopic data will be accumulated from a distance of 3,500 to 10,000 km. The rock could be the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft.
Aside from the technical achievement, the results of this voyage will have very little impact on human civilization, except, perhaps, to keep several hundred astronomers happily employed. One cannot help wondering whether the age of space exploration is rapidly coming to an end for the human race. What remains are the nanometer scale investigations, six quintillion times smaller than the distance to Thule, equally technically difficult – but these may indeed change human existence.
Professor Emeritus of Radiation Physics
Colossal loss
Regarding “Amos Oz dies at 79” (December 30), we have lost a colossus – a pillar of wisdom, brilliance, common sense, hope, realism, literary gianthood, political decency and humanity.
There are dozens of books in the world I like as much, but none intimately and actually more, than his Tale of Love and Darkness.
Aside from this as an incomparable literary gift to the world, it is perhaps the best defense of the original creation of Israel ever written. Oz wrote it in part as an aspect of his role as one of Israel’s greatest good will ambassadors to the world.
He should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature – it was an unjust slap at Israel that he didn’t – and also the Nobel Peace Prize. Condolences to the nation of Israel, to Jewish people everywhere, to people of all backgrounds worldwide and especially to his family.
We have lost a universe.
Cambridge, MA
Healing the rupture
Gil Troy addressed the Israel-Diaspora rupture (“To reinvigorate Zionism,” December 19), and diagnosed the root problem: “In abandoning Judaism en masse, American Jews abandon Israel, too.” Yotav Eliach made a similar diagnosis (“The sad truth why the majority of American Jews feel alienated from Israel,” December 23), where he finds the root cause: “The vast part of American Jewry has willfully decided not to educate their children and grandchildren in any shape or form to be Jewish.”
I was crestfallen to then read Troy’s suggested cure: to set up a Jewish People’s Parliament of Americans and Israelis to talk, talk, talk. Is Troy in denial or maybe he just doesn’t get it? In contrast, Eliach realizes that if the root is lack of education (and observance), then meaningful steps to close the gap necessitate study, study, study.
In “Reform Judaism or new religion?” (December 26), Yosef Rabin cleverly unscrambles the chicken-and-egg relationship between Jews and Judaism (i.e. “Is Judaism defined by Jews?” or “Are Jews defined by Judaism?”) when he writes, “Any Jew born to a Jewish mother is a Jew – period!”
He then points out that not every religion espoused by a group of Jews is automatically “a Jewish sect” or else the “Jews for Jesus [could] also demand [such] recognition, which is obviously absurd. Just because some Jews have banded together to create a new theology does not make that theology a Jewish one.”
His investigation of the Reform belief system demonstrates its wide divergence from Judaism and concludes, “Reform could be best described as a non-Jewish movement, comprised and officiated by Jews.”
The best way forward would be for it to register itself with the state as a separate religion, making it free to conduct its conversions, marriages and divorces as it sees fit – as do the various Christian denominations.
However, this is anathema to it, since its real objective is to impose its opinions on the rest of Jewry. As Rabin points out, “Reform pews and coffers [are] empty due to mass intermarriage [so it needs] a cause to stimulate [its] dying movement, [such as] challenging the status at the Kotel, [which a Reform leader] admitted... in 2013... is really about provoking people to question traditional Judaism.”
I so strongly agree with Rabin. The only issue I felt was regarding the steps moving forward.
There is a saying, “You cannot speak to one who is not listening.” These folks aren’t listening! These American Jews don’t know the severity of the situation or the truth of the matter. How can we expect to teach them when their ears are sealed?
I found it hard to believe the story told to my wife and me Wednesday night by visiting American cousins who are here as part of a 500-person mission from their synagogue, one of the largest Conservative congregations in New York. At the advent of the Shabbat, they were told by the management of the prominent Tel Aviv hotel where they were all staying that they are forbidden by the rabbinate to permit non-Orthodox (egalitarian) prayer services in the ballroom under penalty of losing their kashrut certification. It was the same story in Jerusalem, so they are seeking space in the YMCA.
In all of my 35 years of Orthodox Rabbinic leadership in the United States, I don’t recall such a blatant abuse of Rabbinic authority or such a self-destructive policy leading to gross hilul hashem! There is nothing in halacha, logic or ethics to justify such a policy. The rabbinate is leveraging a bureaucratic supervisory service that has significant commercial implications to extend religious repression into the public domain.
Let the Chief Rabbinate record this as one of their great achievements: they have made it difficult for 500 Jewish pilgrims to recite the Shema in the Holy Land. We have lived to see the fulfillment of another prophecy of Jeremiah: “Those who handle the Torah know Me not” (2:8).
Political ponderings
Regarding “Gantz, Ya’alon may combine parties” (December 27), there are only three Israeli politicians who I am certain understand the magnitude of the Iranian threat. They are Benjamin Netanyahu, Michael Oren and Moshe Ya’alon. Why only them? Because Netanyahu and Oren quoted Bernard Lewis’s warning, “For people with this mindset, Mutually Assured Destruction is not a constraint; it is an inducement.”
Ya’alon, in a 2012 interview, said: “The regime of the ayatollahs is apocalyptic-messianic in character... It will be impossible to accommodate a nuclear Iran and it will be impossible to attain stability. The consequences of a nuclear Iran will be catastrophic.”
While other Israeli politicians may share the above concern, I find no record of them declaring that the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine would not work with the ayatollahs of Iran.
I had every respect for Moshe Ya’alon. He stood up to US secretary of state John Kerry and president Obama’s absurd policies toward Israel and his paper “A New Strategy for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” is excellent. However, in 2016, after leaving the cabinet, he said: “At this point, and in the foreseeable future, there is no existential threat facing Israel.”
While Ya’alon may consider that an estimated three-month breakout time after the Iran Deal with the expiration due to the sunset clause in the Deal as sufficient reason to change his mind, I do not think that the Iranian existential threat has diminished. This change of opinion by Ya’alon looks more like an issue picked by him to differ from Netanyahu than as a result of him responding to a changed reality.
A politician has to be consistent, especially on such an important topic as Iran, or he loses credibility. I urge Ya’alon to clarify his position on the Iranian threat.
Gil Hoffman’s “Political Guide for the Perplexed” (December 26) lays bare Israel’s convoluted electoral system. Our plethora of political parties appears an unnecessary distraction and there can seem to be no reason to vote for an obscure political grouping that might scrape together a few seats in the Knesset.
The informed answer is that some of these small groups will almost certainly be pulled into the coalition that forms the eventual government, and might be able to influence some aspect of eventual policy – an explanation that produces even less clarity for the perplexed.
In the Brexit chaos that now dominates the UK political scene, no one could hold Britain up as a model of political stability. But in normal circumstances, political parties seeking a majority in the Mother of Parliaments issue a manifesto laying out their proposed policies and the party that wins the most votes forms the next government. No ifs and buts usually, no weeks of haggling, negotiating and grubby deal-making to construct a majority. The US electoral system also produces majorities, while in both democracies voters have a personal and geographical involvement with “their” elected representatives.
 The difference, of course, stems from Israel’s non-constituency party-list system, which is geared to produce a wide political spectrum in the Knesset. Despite the lack of connection between voters and MKs, this ensures its own measure of political checks and balances, which is a plus, and the system that has emerged in Israel may indeed be suited to a society where political opinions are ten a penny.
Still, it would be good to establish an expert committee to examine electoral reform and come up with recommendations.
Ramat Beit Shemesh
Regarding the letter “Another Ploy” by Edith Ognall of Netanya (December 24), criticizing the government and our prime minister is in line with her frequently published previous letters. Since I also live in Netanya, I get a very different message from the local citizens.
One of the comments that one hears from people is, “How proud we all are of Netanyahu, our prime minister. He travels all over the world – to Africa, Asia, South America, Australia – and meets with world leaders, successfully promoting the case of Israel and the Jewish people.”
What we need here in Israel is unity and not disunity.
The apartheid lie
After reading the editorial titled “Merry Christmas” (December 24) regarding the Christian population and influence, I realized the significance of articles like these that promote Israel equality and acceptance. In response to the recently passed Nation-State Law, articles falsely demonizing Israel, such as the one from the BDS movement stating that Israel effectively declared itself an apartheid state, came in a flurry. These are antisemitic and pro-Palestinian views that are trying to somehow bias the world against Israel by demeaning Israel’s progressive stance on acceptance of all cultures.
Articles in The Jerusalem Post like this editorial do Israel justice by working to disprove the falsehoods. The mere fact, as the article states, that the growth of the Christian population is on the rise in Israel while in PA-controlled Bethlehem, the Christian population has dropped from 86% to 12% years in the past 70 years only begins to counter the hypocrisy of these mendatious claims that Israel has somehow suppressed people of different religions and cultures.
Arabs and other minorities are full citizens, have equal voting rights, sit in the Knesset, etc. Cultural diversity is fully accepted and embraced in Israel; those who come to Israel and experience the land can verify this for themselves.
High cost of living
There were several items recently in The Jerusalem Post on the high cost of day-to-day living in Israel, but your article “‘Yellow Vest’ movement aims to shape election narrative” (December 26) is the first indication of some real action being taken.
There was some protest in the past about the high cost of some dairy products, but a slight decrease in price seemed to pacify those who were upset.
It has always seemed to me shocking that there are unjustifiably high prices in a country where there are so many low-income families. Israel often claims its possession of the moral high ground, but would find it difficult in this area.
No political party has, as far as I am aware, made this issue a part of their platform. Perhaps the Yellow Vests ought to run candidates for the next Knesset. They might be surprised at the amount of votes they would collect. Usually a one-issue party is not a good idea, but if no party is seriously prepared to tackle this problem then this is one way to ensure it gets attention.
The first aim should be to give a commission of enquiry power to find out the true reasons behind the present deplorable situation, be it monopolies, cartels or other factors. Then suitable action could be taken to achieve a better situation for the disadvantaged – and indeed for all of us.