Letters to the Editor March 3, 2021: Preaching to the converted

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
 Preaching to the converted
Regarding “Non-Orthodox conversions performed in Israel to be recognized for citizenship” (March 2), the court had to do something. But the problem goes back further than 15 years of Knesset inaction. People who had suffered anti-Jewish discrimination in the USSR, even if not Jewish according to Halacha, began arriving in Israel in the 1990s. Not only did the Chief Rabbinate fail to reach out to them and offer to help them get acquainted with Judaism, the rabbis placed barriers in the path of the ones who sought to officially convert (for instance, insisting that the potential convert had to convince his or her entire family to come back to Judaism and refusing to convert anyone who would not become completely observant at the moment of conversion).
The nation-state of the Jews needs to retain its majority-Jewish population. Religious leaders from all streams of Judaism need to be offering classes and activities for people who were denied knowledge of Judaism through no fault of their own (whether they lived under antisemitic governments or their parents were confirmed secularists). Some haredim don’t consider Reform or Masorti Judaism to be “Torah-true” Judaism, but there are people who have undergone several conversions, even starting out Reform and ending up haredi. The longest journey begins with the first step.
Atlanta, GA
The article does not tell the whole story, which is the confused situation that this creates. 
Conservative Judaism does not recognize Reform conversions. Reform Judaism in Israel often objects to Reform conversions performed in the US. And the next stage of confusion is around the corner: “Messianic” Jews who are suing to recognize their status as Jews. In short, the Israeli Supreme Court has not done anyone any favor with the confusion that their decision has created.
As a – many moons ago – graduate of the Bnei Akiva movement who considers herself modern Orthodox, I agree whole-heartedly with Yaakov’s Katz’s comment (“Don’t blame court,” March 2) on the High Court’s ruling that non-orthodox conversions performed in Israel be recognized for citizenship. He correctly notes that this should have been a long-overdue Knesset decision that ultimately required the High Court’s intervention.
Time is long past for this country to bring its population together rather than create a divided society where one Jew is recognized as a Jew and a second is not because they belong to the Reform or Conservative movements.
The Court’s decision is not only pertinent to Jews living in Israel, it is of the utmost importance to those members of the Reform and Conservative movements residing in the Diaspora. Of particular relevance are the Jews living in the United States, where the majority belong to the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism. The end result is a turning away from Israel that our small vulnerable country can ill afford.
The reality is that the government here – through its minority ultra-Orthodox sector – has continually ensured that those Reform and Conservative Israelis are treated as second-class citizens. For example, as Katz notes, in spite of numerous government commitments to provide a place for them to pray at the Kotel this has yet to materialize.
Re-open for business
Regarding “Cabinet approves opening of restaurants, event halls, grades 7-10 on Sunday” (March 2), if restaurants are to be able to open their doors to diners who have been vaccinated then diners should be entitled to know if all the restaurant staff have all been vaccinated.
It is always a delicate balance for a government to negotiate between public good and private needs.
This is exacerbated in times of stress such as our present corona crisis, an example being the frustration of private citizens seeking “exceptions” to the general ban on international flights, as described in “Our government cares only about its own power” (March 1).
There seems to be a lack of uniformity or clarity about how one is to receive such an exception. 
People have submitted applications with appropriate and lengthy documentation only to receive back within minutes a blanket denial, leading them to wonder if their application was even read. 
Was it due to a lack of “protekzia” as Herb Keinon suggested, or lack of bureaucratic accountability as described by Emily Schrader, or worse, “ an example of the editorial’s “farce of law?”
Citizens will respect regulations designed for their safety as long as they are applied fairly and openly. Transparency and equality of application will go a long way to alleviate stress and frustration in all such situations.
Beit Shemesh
Kudos to Emily Schrader for “Our government cares only about its own power” (March 1), with some gentle corrections.
First, the misleading headline. The use of euphemisms should be avoided. “Our government” is a poor substitute for “Our prime minister.”
Similarly misleading is the assertion that “our government feeds the desire of the public not to be a freier.” Although the public has been a freier for decades, this is a false flag. It should read: “Our prime minister feeds his desire not to be a convict.”
Finally, it is an inaccurate and unnecessarily pessimistic assertion that “Israel has weak rule of law.” The unfortunate reality is that Israel has a weak ruler, a poor national condition that hopefully will be remedied soon.
Former JPost chief copy editor and editorial writer
Anti-Zionist MKs
In “What kind of question is that?” (March 1), Jeff Barak praises Yair Lapid for being ready to consider the support of the Joint List of Arab parties. Moreover, according to Barak, it is a shame that such a question should even be asked. It should be self-evident “that political parties representing some 20% of the country’s citizens have the right to play a full part in the country’s political system.” 
This view of the issue is one-sided. In the eyes of many Zionist Jews, the problem with the Joint List isn’t the fact that they are Arab. It is that they are anti-Zionist and often support attacks on Israel by Hamas and others, in effect disenfranchising Israeli Jews. When evaluating the position of the Zionist parties on the Joint List, it is important to take into account the position of the Joint List on Zionism.
The High Court of Justice has re-instated the Labor Party candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana in spite of the controversial statements she has made in the far past and in recent months (“High Court reinstates controversial Labor candidate,” March 1). 
Okay, the high court justices are the legal experts and they have the authority to decide, so one has to accept their call. A more relevant question is why Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli dafka chose Mara’ana, who has recently called the IDF an occupation army, has accused the IDF of murdering a Palestinian child, has called Israel “ugly” and more.
Obviously Michaeli wants to attract votes from the far Left – Meretz voters and Arab voters. That’s politics and that’s okay as well. But choosing Mara’ana for the seventh Labor Party slot implies that Michaeli may have a certain empathy for these opinions. Could not Michaeli have found a more personable Arab candidate whose background did not include derogatory statements about “ugly” Israel and its IDF “child-killers?” 
Three-headed solution
Neither of the March 2 articles on the Israel-Palestine situation (“How Palestinian elections will impact Israel” and ”What Biden should do to advance Israel-Palestine peace”) acknowledge that 1) Hamas, ruling over two million Palestinians in the Gaza strip, is opposed to Israel’s very presence on what it regards as sacred Palestinian soil or 2) Fatah shares that position, but is prepared to play a long game in its pursuit of an eventual Palestine “from the river to the sea.” 
Experience demonstrates that direct Israel-PA negotiations around variations of a two-state solution are ineffective. The reason is simple. Any PA leader signing a peace agreement with Israel is probably also signing his death warrant. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, like Yasser Arafat before him, took negotiations to the wire, but dared not sign a deal that acknowledges Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The political backlash would have been unmanageable.
A sovereign Palestine within something like the pre-1967 lines would be economically unstable and vulnerable to a Hamas takeover by elections or military action. Nor would it be able to resist infiltration by some other Iran-supported fundamentalist group. The PA itself must be aware of this. Israel and Jordan are. Israel has no desire to have an Islamist enemy ensconced in the West Bank threatening Tel Aviv or Ben-Gurion Airport from up close. Jordan doesn’t like the idea of a weak entity on its borders, unable to defend itself against a determined Iran-supported actor.
Out-of-the-box thinking is called for. The answer could lie in a confederate structure embodying Jordan, Israel and a newly sovereign Palestine. The Israel Defense Forces would act in concert with the defense forces of the other parties to guarantee the security of Israel and that of the confederation as a whole. From the moment it came into legal existence, the confederation could make it clear that any subsequent armed opposition, from whatever source, including Hamas, would be disciplined and crushed from within. 
A confederation of three sovereign states dedicated to providing hi-tech security and economic growth and prosperity for all its citizens – this is a configuration offering the possibility of a peaceful and thriving Middle East. 
Ramat Beit Shemesh
Kotel protestpalooza
To my friend Anat Hoffman (regarding “A letter to a friend abroad,” February 28),
I am very sorry that some “yeshiva student” threw hot coffee at your back during your organization’s monthly Rosh Chodesh protestpalooza at the Kotel. It really wasn’t nice of him to ruin your tallit and drench your siddur. But please don’t equate one yeshiva student’s rudeness with all the injustices taking place in Israel against women. What about the recent brutal murders of Israeli wives in front of their children by their husbands? Or what about the ongoing “agunah” problem in Israel and the rest of the world? Is the lack of respect that Women of the Wall get the only injustice that should be brought up by our brothers and sisters living outside of Israel?
Also, please do not pretend to know what is a betrayal of our Jewish tradition and Torah values. Strutting around once a month dressed in a tallit and tefillin costume in front of the Kotel backdrop of your stage is not Jewish tradition or Torah values. 
Trying to get the Israeli government approval and subsidies for your branches of Judaism is not Torah values. Face it already, the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism in America are dying. How many of your “temples” are empty and closing? That is why you accept non Jewish spouses as your so-called Jews. Your brand of Judaism is a cancer that is killing off American Jewry (70% of all Jewish marriages in America are mixed marriages).
And you want to import that cancer to Israel? No thank you, ma’am.
Finally, if Jews in the Diaspora want to influence what happens in Israel, I suggest that they all make aliyah and vote. Heaven knows we get plenty of opportunities to vote in this country.
Ma’aleh Adumim
L’Haim (Ramon)
In “Who beat the pandemic?” (February 19) Amotz Asa-El gives credit for the efficient Israeli health system to Berl Kaznelson and Yitzhak Rabin. But the key person who moved the pieces together in an outstandingly successful structure that is a world class model of health system reform is Haim Ramon. 
Ramon, who stood up to the Histadrut which he previously led, and then as minister of Health, was the leader and architect who led the process and design of the 1995 legislation of National Health Insurance (NHI) to cover the entire population. The NHI legislation incorporated the four major nonprofit Health Funds, competing for members and paid per capita for care of members for designated preventive and curative services. That construct was the key to rapid improvement in patient care with prevention as health fund responsibility, in contrast to the pre-NHI status. It also accounts for the eminently successful COVID vaccination program delivery.
Haim Ramon deserves the respect and thanks of the nation for this brilliant achievement. 
That being said, there are still public health improvements needed in Israel in the Ministry of Health in particular dealing with funding for health, widespread nutritional deficiencies of key minerals such as iodine and key vitamins such as vitamin D and folic acid, all of which can be added to basic foods such as salt, milk and flour in enriched bread and pasta; as well as addressing unexplained increasing mortality from infectious diseases.
Emeritus, Braun School of Public Health, Hebrew University
Herbivores, carnivores and omnivores
Dr. Doni Zivotofsky disputes Richard Schwartz’s claim that human anatomy is “far closer” to that of herbivores than omnivores or carnivores (“A fact-based diet,” Letters, March 1). I disagree with one of Dr. Zivotofsky’s claims, that the body length (head to tip of the spine) to intestinal length of humans is 1:6. It is actually closer to 1:10 or 1:11, which resembles that of herbivores more than carnivores.
I think human physiology and anthropology indicate that our ancestors were likely omnivores who derived the bulk of their nutrition from plant foods. Whether our anatomy overall is “far closer,” “closer,” or “in many ways is similar to” that of herbivores is a qualitative, non-scientific judgment. 
In any event, we have ample evidence that humans can thrive on a plant-based diet. I do not think that Dr. Schwartz misrepresents science or (as Dr. Zivotofsky gratuitously adds) Judaism.
Cleveland, Ohio
Unreal estate
KKL-JNF board in uproar over vote to buy Palestinian land” (March 1) states that “The KKL-JNF has been active in land purchases since its inception in 1901 but it has publicly focused most of its activity within sovereign Israel.” 
How was that possible between 1901 and 1948?
If the board members who now oppose the purchase of land in Judea and Samaria would have been on the board prior to 1948, there would never have been a sovereign Israel!
Ganei Modi’in