Letters to the editor, June 8

Judgment day Sir - In his letter to Israel's 85 rabbinic judges Justice Minister Haim Ramon warns against some of these judges' chronic tardiness and too-short working hours ("Ramon tightens reins on rabbinic courts," June 7). Minister Ramon should follow this up with another letter to Israel's thousands of criminal court judges, explaining that because of their ready acceptance of the wackiest plea bargains by clever defense attorneys Israel's judicial system is in danger of becoming a laughingstock. Another area of shame for these judges is their peculiar sense of balance. A bank executive convicted of fraud involving a few thousand shekels is sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Meanwhile, in a courtroom a few meters down the corridor, a man convicted of sodomy and indecent acts with a young boy is given a sentence of 60 days' community work. YUVAL RONEN Kibbutz Tirat Zvi Academic license Sir, - Why the fuss over the 30 Tel Aviv University professors who unjustly vilify Israel? There were Jews who turned over other Jews to the Nazis in the Shoah, and there were Jews who turned over other Jews to the British in Mandatory Palestine. Perhaps those 30 TAU academics should be teaching at Bir Zeit University ("Men with guts," Amnon Rubinstein, June 6). NINA ZELDIS Ra'anana Rabbi Amar's favorites Sir, - The decision by the Chief Rabbinate to disqualify the conversions of American Orthodox rabbis has an element of irresponsibility ("Chief Rabbinate reaffirms controversial conversions policy," June 7). Even if Rabbi Shlomo Amar decided "close to two years ago not to accept such conversions," the decision had no meaning because he did not take the trouble to inform those concerned. More than a year ago I recommended a rabbi to a middle-aged woman who desired to convert. He was a scholar, head of a rabbinical group and of a rabbinical court, a yeshiva classmate of mine whom I knew personally. His conversions and certifications have been accepted in Israel for many years. The lady followed my recommendation and has now completed her first year of the rabbi's two-year course of instruction. Recently the rabbi told her that because there may be doubts about his status in Israel it may not be wise for him to continue her conversion program. Not only has this candidate invested her time, she has purchased and paid for private tutoring. I am happy that Rabbi Basil Herring of the Rabbinical Council of America has stated that the new policy will not affect recognized converts from the past. However, the problem is severe for those in mid-process, and for the rabbi who gave this potential convert a year of his time and may now have to write off his work. I certainly cannot accept Rabbi Amar's plan that such a rabbi be forced to come to Israel to face examination by three Israeli judges unfamiliar with the US Jewish scene, who probably can't speak English. The rabbi I recommended is close to 80 and has high status in the US Jewish community. My advice to Rabbi Amar would be to immediately amend his new policy to state that not only are those who have completed their conversions exempt from the new regulations, but also those who have enrolled in conversion programs and completed a significant part of their studies. All rabbis involved in conversions should receive adequate notice that they are facing a policy that may disqualify them. Rabbi Amar should then publish a list of his favourite judges in America so potential converts will know to which rabbis they may turn. RABBI SHLOMO WEXLER Jerusalem Moonlight sonata? Sir, - So much gloom and doom emanate from the media these days that the occasional giggle is welcome, as in "Top ISM leader denied entry into Israel" (June 7) on account of, ISM spokeswoman Nurit Golan explained, coming here solely "to tune 40 pianos in the Palestinian Authority areas." CORINNA BRAUNSTEIN Pardesiya Muslim 'Zionism' Sir, - Daniel Pipes's "Muslim Zionism is stronger" (June 7) was no surprise. Since the Six Day War we have permitted our cause to be corrupted by denigrations of the Zionist narrative that have eroded our claims to the land and our capital city. An early example is the term "West Bank," now accepted usage despite its unwelcome connotation that Judea and Samaria are geographical areas unrelated to the historical land of Israel. In recent years, too, our leaders and the media have caviled against "Greater Israel," a locution widely taken to depict the country's alleged rapacious territorial ambitions. And after the removal of Jews from Gaza we now employ the word "settlers" as a pejorative reference to Israelis living beyond the Green Line. At the same time Muslim spokesmen have been reworking the Arab narrative, replacing historical reality with politically driven representations. Thus Jerusalem, never an Arab capital, becomes the "eternal" seat of Palestinian government and the city assumes a theological primacy not intended by Arab dogma, which regards Jerusalem as third in holiness, after Mecca and Medina. The Muslim ambivalence toward Jerusalem is illustrated by the view of the influential 14th-century lawyer and scholar Ibn Taymiyya that one who prays in the direction of the city (rather than Mecca) is a "renegade apostate, who must repent." JACK E. FRIEDMAN Jerusalem Rutenberg revival Sir, - I had to look again at your headline "Rutenberg power plant repairs avert third day of blackouts" (June 7) to understand what it referred to. My confusion was due to having recently visited the original Rutenberg power station. This hydro-electric plant was built in the 1930s at the confluence of the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers, just south of Lake Kinneret. It operated successfully for 11 years until the War of Independence, when it was put out of commission. Now that there is peace with Jordan and both countries need electricity, especially from a renewable and non-polluting source, why not have a joint project to repair it? BERNARD DAVID Petah Tikva Parade panic Sir, - I think it was Mrs. Patrick Campbell, a famous Edwardian actress, who said she doesn't mind what people do "so long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses." My sentiments exactly. I am not homophobic and I have nothing against Gay Pride; it is the parade I object to. In fact, let's have fewer parades in the center of Jerusalem, which is already one big traffic snarl-up and impassable on foot because of the extensive road works. Let the gays be proud in private because while the thought of the disruption that another parade is going to cause may not frighten the (police) horses, it scares the hell out of me. YEHUDIT COLLINS Jerusalem Corrections The caption of the main photo accompanying "Getting past inscrutable" by Elliot Jager (June 7) incorrectly identified diplomat David Hacohen. He is pictured here. *** An item in Tuesday's Business Scene incorrectly identified Bank Leumi's CEO Galia Maor. Safe to travel in Israel? Sir, - I would like to visit Israel next August with my fianc e, preferably renting a car and traveling on our own. I would like to know if it's safe, or if conditions do not allow it considering that Italian newspapers often report that travel in Israel is still unsafe. I would appreciate any advice. ALBERTO BAGGINI Milan