July 23, 2017: House of God

Israel has many centers and ceremonies dedicated to the memory of those who fought and died in the campaigns for our survival.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
House of God
I write in reference to Gershon Baskin’s “The house of God” (Encountering Peace, July 20), where he states that “a majority of Muslims living under Israel’s control do not have free access to [their] most important holy place” in the area.
Assuming that limiting access to what one considers holy is the wrong thing to do, why does he not also point out that the vast majority of Jews are prevented from ascending to the Temple Mount? Not only that, the few who gain access are prohibited from praying! Why is it wrong when the Muslims cannot ascend, but alright when the Jews cannot ascend? Second, in his final sentence, he begs all to “work together toward ensuring that we don’t reach another round of horrific violence spurred by religious fervor.”
To that, Mr. Baskin, there is a simple solution: Use your influence to direct the Muslims to not bring weapons to the Temple Mount. Use your influence to direct them to treat the location as holy, as they claim it is to them.
Ma’aleh Adumim
Photo facts
Regarding “Knesset marks 120 years since first Zionist Congress” (July 19), it warms the Zionist heart to learn of the Knesset commemoration.
The iconic photo accompanying your article does indeed show Theodor Herzl leaning on the railing of the balcony of Room 117 at the Three Kings Hotel in Basel, but it was not taken in 1897, as the caption states. The photo, by E.M. Lilien, was taken during the Fifth Zionist Congress, held in the Swiss city in 1901.
Our history is inspiring, but please, let’s not lose sight of the facts.
Teen Israel
As the primary funder of our community’s teen Israel experience for nearly 50 years, I wholeheartedly agree with Dov Lipman’s conclusion (“Birthright for high school: A plan to save North American Jewry,” Observations, July 14). I have been lobbying Birthright Israel for the past two and a half years to lower the age of eligibility to 16 and to serve as the funding agent to local communities to significantly increase teen travel to Israel.
The key to my community’s success in getting teens to Israel en masse is the fully subsidized community teen Israel experience.
This is the only sensible idea that will save Diaspora Jewry.
As the BDS movement grows on college campuses, and as anti-Israel and antisemitic activities increase in high schools and in our communities, the American Jewish community is losing ground, time and a connection to Israel for our youth. Getting Jewish teens aged 16 and 17 to Israel, and following up with Israel advocacy training before they go to college, will equip them to fight these phenomena.
The key is to provide them with a two-week, fully subsidized experience that will educate, train and inspire them to be Israel advocates in high school, during their college years and beyond.
Birthright Israel for high school would dramatically increase the number of teens having an Israel experience before they go to college; forge strong connections between American Jewish teens and Israel; build a strong, proud, bootson- the-ground army to fight BDS on college campuses and counter the advances of Students for Justice in Palestine; and provide a life-changing experience for disengaged, unaffiliated and underserved Jewish youth.
For teens who desire a longer Israel experience with Jewish camps, schools, youth groups or temples, vouchers for the equivalent cost of a high school trip would make a longer experience more affordable.
Salem, Massachusetts
The writer is president of the Lappin Foundation, which seeks to enhance Jewish identity across generations.
Letters about letters
Reader Bill Halsey blames King Solomon for the division of the kingdom (“A look at Solomon...,” Letters, July 18). But this did not occur during that monarch’s reign.
“My little finger is thicker than my father’s thigh” and “My father chastised you with whips – I shall chastise you with scorpions” are but two of the extreme comments ascribed to Rehobo’am, Solomon’s son and heir. It was he who threatened the already heavily taxed populace of the kingdom.
A consequence was the secession of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, where idols were erected at Dan and Bethel to divert the people from their periodic visits to the Temple in Jerusalem, assisted by the efforts of Jerobo’am, their new king (and sometime adviser to Solomon before his banishment).
There is much in reader Mordechai Spiegelman’s letter “Complex situation” (July 13) that is pertinent and relevant to our current political crises. However, he ignores the real message when he refers to the religious model contained in the Book of Exodus (18-21) outlining the requisite qualities of capability and a fear of God for good governance.
In fact Moses, our illustrious leader and the Lord’s appointee, settled for capability alone – a clear inference to the danger of allowing politics and religion to be intertwined.
Great irony
The great irony of the haredi rabbinate’s insistence that only the ultra-Orthodox know authentic Judaism is that their behavior would likely not be recognized as Jewish by the greats of Jewish history: Abraham, Moses, Gamliel, Maimonides and others.
People who have studied Judaism know that it is an evolved religion and has changed with time. Ritual practices in Abraham’s time were different from those in the time of Moses. They changed yet again with the destruction of the temples and have continued to do so ever since. There is no obvious reason, Jewish or otherwise, why the process should have ended in Poland 200 years ago.
By distancing themselves from non-haredi Jews, haredi rabbis abandon any serious prospect of influencing the debate on how that evolution will now proceed and the potential for educating non-haredi Jews to their way of thinking. By making each issue that arises one of demonstrating their power, they prove to the wider Jewish community that faith isn’t really what they are about.
If they don’t put the interests of Judaism and the Jewish people first, why should others? If this goes on long enough, they just might find themselves considered non-Jews by the rest of the Jewish people.
Framingham, Massachusetts
Bloody conflict
Israel has many centers and ceremonies dedicated to the memory of those who fought and died in the campaigns for our survival. However, we are in a bloody and continuing conflict for which there is no Memorial Day, no centers and no ceremonies at all: the carnage on our roads! This carnage has claimed thousands more dead and maimed than all of our wars combined.
Moreover, the pain is even worse, knowing that these deaths are for no national good or the price for our survival.
They are meaningless statistics, but the cost in families destroyed, children left fatherless and adults unable to work or provide for their families – not to mention the concomitant economic losses – is incalculable.
A recent European report shows how badly we are losing the one battle we could certainly win if only police patrols, roadside cameras and other available measures were more than the current fraction of the numbers promised. More drastic punishment of the tiny percentage of scofflaws who are actually caught and tried would also help.