Letters to the Editor February 19, 2020: Coronavirus, dinosaurs and prayer

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Coronavirus, dinosaurs and prayer
The Covid-19 coronavirus has so far caused tens of thousands of cases, and over a thousand deaths. The SARS virus (SARS-CoV) epidemic in 2002-2003 caused thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths.
It is known that these viruses migrate to humans from wildlife. At the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, the source of the latest virus epidemic originating in China, wild animals, including beavers, porcupines and snakes were sold.
The Chinese government is known to exercise a strong hand in suppressing activities of which it does not approve. Perhaps the Chinese ambassador would like to explain why his government, which has known of this problem since at least 2002, has not acted similarly to suppress the sale of wild animals in China, an activity that has caused so much infection and death, in China and the world.
On another topic, in “The hidden treasures between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv” (February 16), Beit Zayit is mentioned, but not the fact that it is the only place in Israel where dinosaur footprints have been found.
In the early days of the village, a child went missing. In the search for the missing child (found unharmed, underneath a bush, lying on the dinosaur footprints) a member of the search party, Motka Sofer, a local resident and well known tour guide, recognized the dinosaur footprints. Visitors can gain admittance to the site by asking for the key from the village office nearby.
There is a Motka Sofer Street in the Kiryat Hayovel district of Jerusalem.
Beit Zayit
One couldn’t help but notice the stark difference between the “religious” and “secular’ approaches to fighting the coronavirus in side-by-side articles on February 17.
On one hand, hundreds or worshipers flocked to the Kotel to pray for God’s help to cure the sufferers. On the other hand, an Israeli firm working on cell-based therapy reached out to global authorities to collaborate on an immediate solution and introduce their drug worldwide on an experimental basis.
Both articles were highlighted by the excellent editorial in the same issue bemoaning the lack of core curriculum in the Orthodox-run schools and the coming economic dangers to Israel if the situation is not rectified.
But it isn’t enough to teach English, math and science to the Orthodox kids. The cultural framework of the Orthodox has to change drastically – especially the reliance on God to solve their problems and the stubborn belief that their way is the only way to tikkun olam.
Regarding teaching secular subjects in ultra-Orthodox schools, when this was mandated in Monsey, New York, one boys’ yeshiva reached out to an Orthodox friend of mine, who was a newly retired NY State Certified teacher, to set up such a program in their school. Even teaching English to the mostly Yiddish-speaking students was a challenge for her at first, but she managed to earn the confidence of both the students and administration and was able to create a viable and ultimately successful program.
It was a learning experience for all concerned, but was successful and hopefully will be picked up here in Israel as well.
Beit Shemesh
I would suggest an alternative to the article “Hundreds pray at Kotel for end to coronavirus” (February 17). Hundreds – or better still, thousands – should pray at the Temple Mount for the return of the Jewish holiest site to Jewish hands, where the call “The Temple Mount is in our hands” would be true. 
God is looking for us to keep his Laws and Commandments and probably doesn’t take kindly to seeing the abuse of Jews at the Temple Mount nor seeing it under the control of the Wakf. This act on its own would bring about full sovereignty throughout the Jewish land as ordained by God, who brought us back in order for us to build and settle the land for the Jewish people.
Saudi mixed messages
Palestinian, Saudi Arabian textbooks demonize Jews, Israel” (February 12) cites recent studies that show deterioration in the Palestinian Authority School curriculum and improvement in the curriculum of the Saudi Arabian school system.
What was missing?
The fact that Saudi Arabia is now the prime supporter of UNRWA, which allocates 54% of its budget for radical PLO education, with no conditions attached.
Are the Saudis playing both sides of the fence?
Director, Israel Resource News Agency
Anti-Israel pulpits
Dear Mr. Troy,
I read disappointment and fear behind your hurtful words about us (“Are rabbinical schools becoming anti-Israel pulpits?” February 5). I am a second-year student at a liberal rabbinical school and I want to tell you that I am disappointed, too. I attended Jewish day school throughout my academic career and spent five summers at Camp Ramah. I spent Friday nights at home with my family lighting candles and eating chicken soup. I did everything I was supposed to do but suddenly I found myself on my liberal college campus during Israel Apartheid Week and I was unprepared. Not because I didn’t attend enough David Project and hasbara workshops on how to defend Israel, but because that was all the preparation I had.
One day I grew tired of fighting, so I listened. I learned there is another people who also love this land and call it home. They have stories of their grandparents being exiled just like my ancestors, but this time by my people. We are forcing hundreds of thousands of people to live under forced military control with no end in sight. And my teachers, parents and rabbis didn’t bother to tell me. So in the safe space of my rabbinical school surrounded by those who love Israel as deeply as I do, I talk about my hopes, fears and concerns for the future of Israel, because I, too, am a Zionist and I, too, am scared.
Every day I pray for Israel’s safety and I pray for peace. But I promise you that when I become a rabbi, I will do more than simply pray. I will teach the next generation how to love Israel justly, honestly, and completely the way I was never taught so that maybe they won’t be as disappointed as I am.
New York
Gil Troy responds:
My column noted that in some programs “once-marginal anti-Israel voices, while not the majority, have gone aggressively mainstream – often bullying Zionist students and speakers.” I wondered whether Jewish polarization and academic bullying “polluted… the ecosystem.” I asked how Israel is “taught (or mis-taught),” and about each institution’s “learning culture” and bottom lines. Beyond examining “these allegations,” I proposed establishing committees to “ensure that… classrooms foster mutual respect and open, critical, inquiry.”
I agree that we must “teach the next generation how to love Israel justly, honestly, and completely.” But loving “completely” means seeing the Palestinian problem without seeing only it. It means going public about other issues, not just the Trump proposal – say, jointly visiting terror victims or joining me in my work to build a broad, complex, multi-dimensional, left-to-right, big tent identity Zionism, which tackles our shortcomings while appreciating our achievements and, “in the true spirit of beit midrash”– learns from Left and Right, from those who agree with us – and loving critics who challenge us, too.
I’m happy to meet with anyone who wishes to discuss this civilly and constructively.
Peace is at hand
I want to congratulate Gershon Baskin on his important article (“And the rest is history,” February 14), which explains how close former prime minister Ehud Olmert was to concluding a peace agreement with Mahmoud Abbas until, unfortunately, some nasty judges put Olmert in jail for something or other. And it was inspiring to read “Why I met with Mahmoud Abbas” (February 14) by Ehud Olmert, who emphasizes that the only goal of Mahmoud Abbas is “the establishment of an independent Palestinian state” that would exist in peace and harmony next to Israel.
To skeptics who doubt whether an agreement made by the Palestinians can be trusted, I can easily alleviate their fears by pointing to the 1993 Oslo Accords. These Accords were accompanied by a letter from Yasser Arafat that states: “The PLO commits itself… to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and declares that all outstanding issues will be resolved through negotiations…the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence.” As is well known, Yasser Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, have faithfully honored this commitment; not a single Israeli citizen has been killed or injured by Palestinians since 1993.
Moreover, as soon as Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas established a thriving democracy there and recognized Israel’s right to exist. In the last 15 years, not a single missile has been fired from Gaza into Israel. Hamas even built tunnels to help Gaza tourists visit Israel.
I cannot understand why our prime minister refuses to accept Olmert’s proposal to withdraw the IDF from the West Bank, an act that will finally bring peace and security to our troubled land.
Petah Tikva
Two approaches; one works
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s embracing PA leader Mohammed Abbas and praising him as a “man of peace... opposed to terror” should be a cause of embarrassment to all Israelis and their supporters.
The past demonstrates the futility of trying to make peace with the Palestinians, who have rejected all Israeli attempts to reach an amicable solution – instead fostering terrorism and teaching hate.
Olmert and his comrades fail to consider the results of two different Israeli approaches to its neighbors:
1) Bowing to international pressure, Israel retreated from a buffer zone in southern Lebanon, leading to the development of Hezbollah and its tens of thousands of rockets targeting Israel. Similarly, the disengagement from Gaza led to the barrage of rockets and incendiary devices that afflict the lives of Israelis living in the Western Negev and the coastal region south of Tel Aviv. In both cases, the absence of the IDF has allowed these areas to become terrorist havens threatening Israel.
2) The other approach is to realize that Israel must provide for its security despite the endless objections of the international community. Annexation of the Golan Heights has led to a quiet border with Syria. The bombing of the Osiris reactor was greeted with international condemnation, but prevented Assad from developing nuclear bomb.
It would be folly for Israel to permit a militarized state in Judea and Samaria without providing a buffer zone to protect major Israeli facilities (such as Ben-Gurion Airport); allowing the IDF to have free movement to prevent terror attacks; and securing Israeli control over the Jordan Valley to prevent the free entry of violent Iranian proxies to threaten the country.
The international community wailed that Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would lead to violent conflict, but this never occurred.
History should make Olmert and others of his ilk realize that Israel must do what is necessary to ensure its right to exist, rather than futilely attempt to appease the Arab street and international community.
Brookline, Mass.
Addicted to violence
While reading “Explosive balloons continue to fly after Egyptian mediation attempt” (February 12), I was struck by how the difficulties in getting Palestinian Arabs to stop attacking Israel resemble the difficulties getting addicts to stop abusing their substance of choice. As a retired psychologist Board Certified in the treatment of substance abuse disorders, it all seems so tragically familiar.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad tell someone (Egypt) they will stop attacking? Soon they are attacking again. Palestinian Arab terror groups stop attacking for a few days or weeks? Inevitably they start attacking again. Gaza suffers demonstrable costs and disadvantages as a consequence of their intransigent terrorism? It doesn’t matter – soon and inevitably the next terror attack is on its way.
This does not portend well for Israel’s efforts at reaching a long-term cessation of hostilities with Hamas, or even with Arab Palestinians in general, consistent with the recent survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Social Research finding that 64% of Arab Palestinians think that terrorism is the appropriate response to a peace offer.
Stop taking the addicts’ word for it. Unfortunately, it appears that Arab Palestinians are addicted to anti-Israel and antisemitic violence. Their past and future promises to stop may be as worthless as any addicts’ promises. Alternatives, however unpalatable, must be considered, given this reality.
Williamsville, New York
Finger on the scale
We are instructed by the Torah (Deut.25:14) not to maintain two sets of weights for measuring goods: one for one type of person and one for another. This precept has been adopted in every democratic society in order to protect us from the dangers of the double standard.
Your editorial (“Supreme Injustice,” February 12) rightly questions the astonishing decision of the Supreme Court to allow the candidacy of Heba Yazbak for the next Knesset. However, there is no mention in your piece of the comparison of this judgment to that in the case of Michael Ben Ari, whose candidacy was disqualified by the same Court.
On one hand there is a woman who praises terrorists, condones violence against our soldiers and works ardently for the destruction of the State of Israel as a Jewish State.
On the other hand, there is a man who calls for the death sentence for anyone who speaks against Jews, as Jews, whose sons serve in the IDF.
Now, which of them fits the ideology of democracy and which does not?
Democracy stops where it advocates the destruction of democracy
Free speech stops where it advocates the cancellation of the right to free speech.
Why does your editorial not highlight this glaring anachronistic and leftish inverted bias, which is the root of the problem and undermines the very basis of justice – that of maintaining two sets of weights?
God and Balfour
I would like to suggest a minor modification to the title of Shmuley Boteach’s article “God, not Balfour, gave Israel to the Jews” (February 11). It should read “God and Balfour gave Israel to the Jews.”
And this is not to mention the many Zionists who came here in the early days and sacrificed their lives for the dream.