June 18, 2018: Speaking in tongues

From Turkey to the Philippines.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Speaking in tongues
In “Turkish PM says Israeli win at Eurovision was rigged” (June 17), we learn that Culture Minister Miri Regev is said to have been displeased with Lucy Ayoub using Arabic (in addition to Hebrew) while on screen this year during the Eurovision contest. Later in the article, Regev is quoted as saying, “The Eurovision contest is a chance to show the beautiful and diverse face of Israeli society.”
If we want to showcase diversity and inclusion of all members of our society, then Lucy is a perfect example of the best of Israel. How can Miri Regev object?
Tel Aviv
33 and counting

In “A double dose of blue blood” (Grapevine, June 10), we read that “The Philippines offered a haven to Jews during the Holocaust and was one of the 33 countries voting in favor of the partition of Palestine in November 1947, which is the 120th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence.”
It is interesting to note that in the Jewish tradition there are 33 paths to wisdom, King David reigned in Jerusalem for 33 years and the number of vertebrae in our spinal column is 33.


Embracing death foils M.A.D.
“Iran Isn’t North Korea” (June 15) misses a key point. The most fundamental difference between North Korea and Iran is that the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine still works with North Korea, but it would not work with Iran.
As Bernard Lewis points out, “In this context, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, namely M.A.D. (Mutual Assured Destruction), would have no meaning. At the End of Time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter is the final destination of the dead – hell for the infidels and the delights of heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, M.A.D. is not a constraint; it is an inducement...”

Gushing comments
We read in your paper of the five year drought in Israel and the challenge to maintain the water supply.
Having just visited Israel, I was shocked to see how water gushes from the taps and showers. In Colorado, we are given free shower heads that allow an adequate flow but limit the amount of water wastage. We also get financial incentives to put in low-flush toilets.
Israel claims to be a leader in water management, yet it seems that there is an unaddressed issue of water wastage.

Englewood, Colorado
A history of friendship

Regarding “Bulgaria a country that sticks up for Israel in EU, says Netanyahu” (June 14), this is not the first time that Bulgaria has displayed friendship to the Jewish people.
In 1943, during the Holocaust, at the height of the Nazi deportations of Jews from all over Europe to Auschwitz and the other death camps, the Bulgarian government, which was actually an ally of Germany in WWII, received an order from Berlin to assemble some 48,000 Jews for deportation the next day. That night a prominent member of the Bulgarian parliament ran around  to all of the other members of parliament, lobbying them to stop the deportation order.
The next morning, when the parliament met, they rescinded the Nazi deportation order, thus saving almost all of the Jews of Bulgaria. There is testimony to this at Yad Vashem in the Gallery of Resistance and Rescue.

Beit Shemesh
Some rockets are okay
Regarding “UN Official: Trade economic relief for Gaza peace” (June 12), is UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov for real?
He wants a commitment from Hamas to “reduce” the amount of rocket attacks against Israel.
Reduce, not stop!

Petah Tikva
Charm and arrogance
“Where is the outrage? Where is the leadership?” (June 14) laments the personal and public behavior of US President Donald Trump. It’s true, Trump has an abrasive often arrogant personality. Many people need a charming, highly respectable, father figure as their political “leader.” Trump doesn’t fit the bill and it drives them crazy.
Former president Barack Obama did fit the bill, but Obama caused enormous harm to the Jewish/Israeli cause even though he had a great smile and sense of humor. In fact, Trump does show unique leadership abilities which may lead to significant achievements, but not in the style that some people can live with.
Style above substance is their motto.

Beersheba, Israel
Recipe for survival

“Tallit and tefillin, Shabbat and kashrut” (June 15) was a thoughtful survey of a complex issue. Nevertheless, David Weinberg’s recipe for Jewish-Israel revival was to my mind one-dimensional and unrealistic.
One has to face the fact that Shabbat observance as it is interpreted in the Orthodox world is unacceptable in the modern reality. In Israel, over 70% of Jews (who Weinberg himself admits overwhelmingly see being Jewish as central to their identity) travel on Shabbat, since being forbidden to travel to visit relatives and friends on Shabbat, or discover their own treasured homeland on their one day off does not square with being holy in any sense; nor does a neurotic obeisance to ancient, arcane dietary strictures, grossly inflated by fanatical rabbinical edicts and enforced by a corrupt religious bureaucracy.
One could give many other examples in the areas of personal and family life. I am sorry to say that if Weinberg thinks that this is the recipe for survival, then we are doomed. It isn’t going to happen, not there, not here.
But Weinberg is correct in stressing education. I myself made aliya over 40 years ago after a liberal Jewish and Zionist education, and many others did the same. This is the area we need to concentrate on in the Diaspora – Zionist pride based on a liberal and relevant Jewish identity, as envisaged by our non-Orthodox Zionist prophets like Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, David
Ben-Gurion and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
I have seen this work in the UK (I am a product) and Australia; please don’t think that the US is everything. We should all be supporting the difficult ongoing efforts of liberal and reform Jews in Israel to make Judaism modern and relevant, while being rooted in its ancient texts and values.
Rosh Pina
Overreaching courts
In “Anti-democratic, anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist,” (June 15), Tsvi Brisk argues (that ”Israel is a democracy governed by constitutionalism,” and, as such, its judiciary must retain the power to invalidate laws found to violate what the author calls “unalienable rights.” His argument is muddled.
Brisk invokes the American constitutional system, but in that system the idea of “unalienable rights” isn’t a constitutional concept. It’s a philosophical doctrine cited in the Declaration of Independence, but it isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. Federal courts can invalidate laws that conflict with the Constitution, because Congress’s legislative powers derive from the constitution and are subject to its terms.
Israel, however, has no constitution. It has “basic laws,” but these are not the source of the Knesset’s power; they are enacted by the Knesset and there’s no principle of law that prevents the Knesset from repealing or amending them. It is appropriate for Israel’s judiciary to enforce existing basic laws, but for courts to countermand legislation based not upon existing superior legislation but upon the judges’ own philosophical notions isn’t consistent with constitutional democracy or any other kind of democracy.
Judges cannot democratically constrain legislative power by enforcing a constitution they think should exist but doesn’t.


Fining ‘the social evil’
Regarding “‘Historic’ bill would fight prostitution with fines” (June 14), I should like to refer to a historic bill passed on April 18, 1905, which used similar means to fight prostitution.
The Edlis Act, signed by Governor Pennypacker of Pennsylvania, was named for Adolph Edlis, a Jewish member of the Pennsylvania Legislature who proposed that “male persons loitering around baudy houses” should be imprisoned and fined. The Edlis Act became the model for the Federal Mann Act. Prostitution, called “the social evil,” was greatly lessened by the imposition of these fines.
Ganei Omer

Your report on the proposed anti-prostitution bill was carefully worded so as not to reveal the correspondent’s own opinion on the subject – and rightly so, because the subject is by no means a matter of “right” or “wrong”.
Not all men have the good fortune of finding a lifelong partner with whom they can express their feelings of love in whichever way they jointly choose and whenever they so choose. Many men are deprived of an outlet for their sexual drive, whether their deprivation is enforced upon them (such as prisoners) or derives from a facet of their make-up which is totally socially unacceptable (ugliness, unacceptable social behavior, etc). For people in this position, prostitution is an answer. It is even officially utilized by prison authorities for long-term inmates.
To abuse women and force them into prostitution is a vicious crime and needs to be so dealt with, but, that is a long way from penalizing men who, for one reason or another, turn to prostitution. There is no crime in this. You can argue that is should be institutionalized, or state-organized, but it is not a crime. As Judge Hermelin of the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court said, there is freedom of employment; a woman has the right to do with her body as she pleases in a democratic society and some women have freely chosen prostitution as their means of livelihood.
Who is Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to interfere with the age-old social framework and impose thereon a one-sided unjustified set of artificial norms?