Letters to the Editor December 13, 2021: Poor history

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Poor history

Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg is an outstanding historian, an exemplar of morality, and a caring Jew. He makes many important points in his column, “In those days, in our time” (December 6). Its main thrust is to highlight the importance of the participation of Orthodox Jews with non-observant Jews in molding the character of the State of Israel. His implication is that haredim, unlike the religious Zionist camp, keep themselves apart from influencing the fate and destiny of modern day Israel.

He equates today’s haredim with the “hassidim” of the Book of Maccabees, and the religious Zionists with the Hasmonean Maccabees. The story described there is indeed critical of those hassidim for excluding themselves from the battle with the Greek Syrians and for making faulty religious decisions. Rabbi Greenberg extols the courage of Religious Services Minister Kahana’s religious reforms as a Hasmonean effort. Those opposed to the minister’s initiatives are today’s haredim who emulate the closed-minded hassidim of those times.

It is poor history to equate Jews who lived in Israel two millennia ago with Jews living in Israel today. The circumstances and reality of our times are vastly different from those that existed in the times of the Maccabees. Minister Kahana has addressed important matters which must be confronted. It is not my intention to discuss them in this letter.

Rabbi Greenberg also acknowledges that the Hasmonean efforts ultimately failed. But he fails to note how badly and how quickly after Hanukkah of 165 BCE the results of those efforts crumbled. It is Nachmanides (Genesis 49:10) who extols the Hasmoneans as the righteous of heaven (Hassidei Elyon). But Nachmanides is quick to point to the same Maccabees as sinners who usurped royalty in violation of Jacob’s will that kingship not veer from the tribe of Judah and the biblical law as interpreted by the Talmud Yerushalmi. How sad it is to note that some of the children of the five Hasmonean brothers became Hellenists themselves, bearing Greek names and extolling the very culture their fathers tried to defeat. So tragic is their fate and so total their acculturation, integration and assimilation that the Talmud states that anyone who boasts of Hasmonean ancestry is not Jewish!

Ultra-orthodox in the IDF: A Nahal Haredi swearing-in ceremony (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Ultra-orthodox in the IDF: A Nahal Haredi swearing-in ceremony (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Furthermore, not all modern day Israeli haredim are hassidim of the Maccabean genre. Some serve in the IDF (Nahal Haredi, Givati, Shachar), some get a full secular education (led by the likes of Menachem Bombach and Eli Paley) in addition to their religious studies, some study Torah full time, and some do none of the above. That sounds a lot like Dr. Greenberg’s Hasmoneans and our religious Zionist world as well.

My main point is that we must be careful to avoid making unjustifiable historical analogies and imposing them on the complexity of religious politics in modern day Israel.


Accurate headlines

A newspaper’s responsibility is to report facts as accurately as possible as part of its responsibility to the public. Unfortunately, the health reporters and the editors have seemed to have failed in this mission. The article headlined with the quote of “3 Pfizer shots four times less effective v. Omicron” (December 12) is a case in point. The headline would lead the average reader to be disillusioned and believe that the vaccines are weak. It could further dissuade them from being immunized fully against the COVID-19 infection. 

Only a careful reader who peruses the entire article would reach the end where the writer includes the following reassuring statement: “..the Sheba study found that the booster dose does increase the ability of the vaccine to work against Omicron by about 100-fold, meaning that there is ‘significant protection,’” Prof. Regev Yochay said. “It is lower than the neutralizing ability against the Delta – about four times lower. But it is very optimistic.” The italics that I added for emphasis at the end highlight a very different conclusion that is indicated by the misleading headline.

In fact, another article in the same issue, “55 Omicron cases confirmed; ‘Fifth wave begins,’” refers to a quote from Prof. Eran Segal again referenced (or buried) only midway through the article, that Omicron cases “are mostly mild and individuals with three Pfizer shots are likely still 95% protected against infection and protected against severe disease.”

The Jerusalem Post can and should choose headlines that more accurately describe the data provided by the experts it quotes in this ongoing public health emergency. Improved editorial oversight of the presentation of the health information would also be consistent with your own editorial (also on December 12) which commends President Herzog’s campaign titled “Think good.”


Part of their sanity

In their article “Just imagine” (December 12), Maurice Hirsch and Itamar Marcus calculate the billions of shekels lost to the Palestinian Authority from the decision of numerous countries that, thankfully, have begun to return to part of their sanity, and reduced or eliminated the fortunes that have been lost to the betterment of Palestinian lives as a result of Mahmoud Abbas’s pay for slay policies. The Palestinian coffers would be even fuller with shekels and dollars if the Palestinian leaders did not embezzle or openly take millions of dollars from these same sources of financial aid donated to the Palestinian Authority.

There is a very simple reason why these untold billions were never used to improve the lives of the Palestinians. Improving the lives of and the economy of the Palestinians was never the goal or aims of the Palestinian Authority. As I reread the Palestinian charter, I do not see anything about improving the lives of the Palestinians so that they can improve their standard of living or improve and build a bustling economy. All I get from their charter is their anti-Zionist diatribe which is their raison d’etre.

Things will never change because the Palestinians believe in their charter, which only dreams of a single state without any Jews.


In this article it is suggested how much good the PA, run by the terrorist in a suit Mahmoud Abbas, could have done for its people with the many billions of dollars it has received over the years from donor countries that chose to close their eyes to what was happening or rather not happening in the territories obligingly handed over by Israel, such as building infrastructure for the state they say they are desperate and entitled to have. 

Of course they have no such entitlement to the historic Jewish Land. For 17 years, while Jerusalem was under the illegal control of Jordan, never was there mention of a “Palestinian” state never mind a “Palestinian” people nor was Jerusalem in any way holy to anyone other than the Jewish people who prayed for thousands of years to return. Only Jews look to Jerusalem when praying while those that place such great importance on it with words, have their backsides facing Jerusalem when praying. 

To top it all, Islam was not even established until 2200 years after Judaism, but if you tell a lie often enough and it’s something people want to believe, then it becomes fact, especially when the land in question is run by those without the pride and faith to stand up for their just rights to the land. 

No matter how many countries hold back donations, while our enemies occupy Jewish land, there will always be a way for them to survive and further their goal of destroying us. I would prefer to “just imagine” that Israel recognized they were returned to this historic land for one purpose which is to build and settle it for the Jewish people; that allowing one’s enemy integration throughout the land and helping it survive was a recipe for the disasters we now face.

The answer to stopping the constant attacks and murders of Israelis as well as the destruction of land is not “business deals” with the UAE or Bahrain or any other Arab countries or dependence on so-called friends, but remembering who and what we are. It is knowing one’s enemies and not standing idly by while they destroy us.  When one comes to kill you, you must get up first and kill him. Anything else, everything else has been tried and failed so “just imagine” for once doing the right thing.


A Jewish state?

Warren Goldstein, the chief rabbi of South Africa, has gone way overboard and shows little understanding of Israel’s unique situation (“Israel’s identity as a Jewish state is in danger,” December 12). To date, 8,200 poor souls  have lost their lives to the COVID pandemic in Israel but Rabbi Goldstein is unhappy with the restrictions on the entry of Jews from abroad. “The very identity of the State of Israel is at stake. If Israel loses its identity as a Jewish state, it will lose its very reason for being... is it really worth fighting for?” the rabbi writes.

Well, I guess we will have to continue fighting for our lives without the help of South African Jews. More to the point – there are about 1.8 million non-Jews who are citizens of the democratic state of Israel and their rights are protected by law and are equal to the rights of Israel’s Jewish citizens. If Jews would be allowed  to enter Israel for whatever reasons, the same conditions, rules and restrictions would have to apply to our Arab citizens as well – inviting a deluge of entries for family events – births, deaths, weddings, sickness, religious ceremonies.

If not carried out, Israel would be immediately and furiously branded and denounced by the UN, the European Union, the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and a tsunami of liberal NGOs and editors as a discriminatory and racist state. Patience and understanding are required, Rabbi Goldstein, before giving up on us.


Calling all the shots

The latest Iranian negotiations were initially promoted as a means to permanently prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear arsenal, to increase inspections and oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and to limit Iranian production of intercontinental missiles. None of this is being negotiated (“With Vienna talks deadlocked, Germany’s new foreign minister warns: ‘Time is running out for nuclear deal with Iran,’” December 12). What is under discussion is the immediate and permanent removal of US sanctions on Iran.

From a position of weakness, Iran is calling all the shots. Iran has succeeded in shifting the goalposts. The parties to the negotiations are all lining up begging Iran to return to the previous agreement which is irrelevant and outdated. 

America cannot be seen to be taking orders from Israel. Biden will not attack Iran unless Iran makes a “Pearl Harbor” type of error. However, there is another option that should be considered.

Iran is facing severe internal problems. American sanctions have partially crippled the Iranian economy. Oil production is well below previous levels. Iran is facing a severe drought. Lakes and rivers are drying up. Farmers have no water. Their livestock are dying and their crops are failing. Climate change and major water mismanagement are taking a severe toll.  

The majority of Iranians are ethnically Persian. Millions do not support the mullahs who presently rule Iran. Iran has many minorities that have been brutally mistreated by the regime. There are regular executions of dissidents and opponents of the regime. Twenty-five per cent of Iranians are Azeris. The Kurds and Baluchis are mainly Sunni Muslims. They are nearly 10% of the population. Ahwazi Arabs are a minority group that lives in an area with major oil reserves. Instead of receiving part of the oil wealth from the area in which they live, they have major pollution and very high unemployment.

While Iran is spending hundreds of millions on Hezbollah and Hamas, many of its own population are starving. Protests against the regime are spreading. Social media have shown the Iranians that it is possible to have a better and more prosperous future. The youth are rebelling against an outdated way of life. They want freedom. 

History shows repeatedly that there is a tipping point where the ruling dictator or king is overthrown. King Farouk of Egypt, the shah of Iran, Marcos of the Philippines, Ceausescu of Romania, Honecker of East Germany, Gaddafi of Libya, are among many other rulers who were all overthrown by the citizens that they once ruled. Iran is close to the tipping point.

Every encouragement should be offered to the minorities of Iran to ensure that they unite to overthrow the regime that is ruining their lives and future. Regime change in Iran will achieve exactly what the end result of a major war with Iran will end up achieving. It could be the best solution.