January 1, 2018: Supersensitive American Jews

Two news articles in your December 29 edition complemented each other...

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Supersensitive American Jews
Two news articles in your December 29 edition complemented each other: Lahav Harkov’s “‘Silent Holocaust of assimilation destroying US Jewry,’” on United Torah Judaism MK Israel Eichler’s comment at the Knesset; and Tamara Zieve’s “Five times Israel was blamed for insulting US Jewry this year.”
Who are all the supersensitive, easily offended Americans, and how do we know about their hurt feelings? They are certainly not among the millions of respectful visitors who stand in awe at Judaism’s most hallowed site. These visitors would no more consider changing time-honored arrangements at the Western Wall than changing visitor practices at Paris’s Notre Dame or the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
Who so conveniently provides us with feedback about “American feelings”? The spokespersons of the self-appointed organizations of a suicidal American Jewish community? They have spawned a generation of alienated young people like those who prevented Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely from speaking at the Princeton Hillel, and those who confuse Israel’s life-and-death security problem with America’s 1960s civil rights movement.
Which brings us to the rebuttal of Eichler’s comment by Rabbi Steven C. Wernick, CEO of the Conservative movement. All you need to do is read the many reports by the Pew Research Institute on American Jews and their future. I wish it weren’t so, but Eichler is on the button while Wernick is whistling in the dark.
Petah Tikva
La La Land
On December 28, we read that our prime minister proposed to fund 50 countries that support Israel (“Netanyahu starts aid fund for 50 countries to boost votes for Israel at UN”). The previous day we learned in your pages that many children in Israel go to school without a sandwich and probably go to bed hungry (“One in three children lives in poverty,” December 27).
I came on aliya in 1961 but woke up in 2017 in La La Land.
Thank them with action
Regarding your December 27 editorial “Guatemala,” I echo your expression of gratitude, as do most Israelis. And like you, we all hope that it will help encourage other countries to follow suit.
I would, however, propose that we move beyond expressions of gratitude and wishful thinking, and proactively use this occasion to demonstrate to the world that being a true friend of Israel will have significant, long-term benefits. To that end, I would propose that Israel develop with Guatemala a master plan for assisting in the development of that country based on the fact that Israel is the only example of indigenous modernization in a small country over the past century.
For too long, we have wasted our efforts on countries that we do not have the capability to affect in any substantial way in the vain expectation that they will appreciate us. The results are painfully clear: From Turkey to Africa and throughout the Middle East, we give and they take, and then they turn their backs on us when we need their diplomatic and political support.
Let the progress of Guatemala be the first, but not the last, to serve as an example of how Israel treats true friends – not with words, but with action.
Good news for beginning 2018
I am handicapped and use a wheelchair outside my apartment. Recently, my helper, Zenaida, and I decided to travel for the first time from Modi’in to Tel Aviv by train. I had no idea how much fun it would be.
When we arrived at the ticketing office, there was a special attendant who took charge of me, and with Zenaida pushing the wheelchair, he directed us to the correct platform, where we waited in a special area for people in wheelchairs.
Exactly on schedule, the train arrived and the wheelchair attendant put me and my wheelchair onto a special carrier, which he then pushed to the car designated for people with disabilities. Once inside, I sat in a niche for wheelchairs, and Zenaida sat beside me.
Exactly on time, the train departed the Modi’in station and glided along the rails. After stopping at a few stations, we arrived at the Shalom station exactly on time.
Shortly before we arrived, another railway attendant came to us and helped us disembark.
The railway cars were spotlessly clean and the announcements regarding stations were in both Hebrew and English.
All in all, I feel that Israel Railways is more entitled than China to the title “Silk Road.”
As Jews throughout Israel were lighting the eighth candle of Hanukkah, I found myself driving a dear elderly friend from Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem to Ben-Gurion Airport.
Pnina had experienced a fall. After several days of care, the medical staff wanted to discharge her. Her knee was bruised, however, and she would not be able to ascend the steps to get into her home. An olah with no immediate family in the land to provide the level of care she needed, she decided to return to the US and her daughter’s home, at least for a while.
I had been visiting Pnina from the States when all this came about. I offered to help her travel all the way back, as it was obvious she could not travel alone. The enormity of the task seemed overwhelming: How will I get her from my rental car to the check-in desk? How will I push her in a wheelchair and push the luggage cart? Who will help me transfer her from her wheelchair to a seat on the plane?
I began to sense the angels when the car rental agent drove us to the airport entrance and not only fetched a wheelchair, but an attendant to push Pnina and guide us through the entire check-in and security process.
Boarding the El Al 747 to New York would have been complicated and risky except for three more assistants who knew what they were doing in helping her all the way to her designated seat using a narrow wheelchair. As we settled in, a beautiful flight attendant leaned over and whispered to Pnina: “If you need anything or just want to talk, I will be here for you.”
I was stunned at this sincere offer and was feeling more hopeful that we might indeed make it. But as we lifted off the ground, I could not help but wonder how Pnina would be able to engage in other necessary activities on a 12-hour flight, like using the restroom.
When the time came, three young men, cabin crew members (including the crew chief), swiftly and gently helped this Jewish mama, precious and slightly plump, who could not take even one step on her own. When she was unable to close the door of the tiny bathroom, they held up a large blanket, preserving her dignity.
This woman – who for many years has visited wounded soldiers – was now on the receiving end of special care and we made it safely all the way to Pnina’s daughter in Minnesota.
You know who you are! Thank you from us – Pnina, her family and me – for all you did for her. What more can be said to describe a glimpse of the divine in real time on the eighth day of Hanukka?
Spooner, Wisconsin