Letters to the editor, March 8

Leave Torah out of the road map... Sir, - In Matthew Wagner's "Shouting from the rooftops" (March 7) Elon Moreh Rabbi Elyakim Levanon says, "The Torah is our road map." My question: Whom will we entrust to interpret the Torah? The same Torah Rabbi Levanon refers to gave birth to the three major religions. In addition, the Jewish religion has fractionalized into Orthodoxy, Conservatism and Reformism, all based on interpretation. Wouldn't it make more sense to allow the Torah to guide our private lives and leave the road map to peace up to the politicians? P. YONAH Shoham ...return Jews to their roots Sir, - Contrary to what Matthew Wagner writes, Israelis and others do know and visit the area, and not necessarily in armored buses. I myself bring groups there, albeit in armored buses, several times a year, not only because it is important for all Jews to get to know an area that is so important to Jewish history and culture - it was the entry point to Israel for Abraham and Jacob, and for Joshua coming out of the desert - but because it is incredibly beautiful. Elon Moreh and the other Nablus-area yishuvim are neither isolated nor remote. Elon Moreh, the furthest northward, is only one and a quarter hours from Jerusalem (Eilat, by comparison, is four hours away, Tiberias two and a half), and not much further from Tel Aviv. And if it's true that many secular Israelis don't know where Elon Moreh is, that's because they are isolated from their Jewish roots and not because Nablus is far from them. Joseph of the Bible is buried in Nablus, and even the Oslo Accords did not cede the town and Joseph's burial place to the local Arab inhabitants. It's time for the Israeli populace to wake up. A terrible injustice has been done to the Jews of Gush Katif, but a far worse scenario awaits us if terrorists are allowed to overrun Samaria. RABBI DAVID STERNE Jerusalem Dubai it? Sir, - Lately one can't help but wonder whether we are living in Chelm. President Bush's plan to give control of six major US ports to Dubai Ports World has been opposed by both Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate and House of Representatives because of security issues and the fact that DPW is an active participant in the boycott of Israel. As reported in "Dubai's boycott" (Editorial, March 3), William Bennett, a well-known Republican supporter of Bush, has asked: "What kind of a signal are we sending by making a public ally of a country that refuses democracy and does not recognize the existence of its most democratic neighbor because it is considered to be inhabited by members of the wrong religion?" It turns out, however, that Dubai Ports World may have less need to fear it will lose the deal, for help is forthcoming from an unlikely source. "Israel's Zim sails into US ports dispute - on behalf of Dubai" (March 3), vouching for the excellence of DPW's services. LILLY DIMITROVSKY Jerusalem Sir, - I emailed President Bush and asked: "Why not offer the ports contract to the Israelis? They are great at security!" JACK R. JOHNSON Beloit, Wisconsin Failed recipe for peace Sir, - While saying nothing about how Israel followed the disastrous policy of concessions to the Palestinians that have given us a Palestinian Authority controlled by Hamas, Gershon Baskin rightly observes that the conflict will now become worse, and that any further unilateral withdrawal will not earn Israel any real trade-offs from the Palestinians ("How to guard the two-state option," February 28). This being the case, Baskin has for once provided strong reasons not to proceed with further unilateral withdrawals that do not bring Israel peace or enhanced security - and yet that is what he recommends, suggesting that the UN assume control in areas vacated by Israel. Perhaps he forgets that the UN is not Israel's best friend, and that UN forces like UNIFIL have not been exactly diligent in preventing attacks on Israel. Baskin's isn't a recipe for peace or quiet, but for further harm to Israel. MORTON A. KLEIN Zionist Organization of America New York Right and duty Sir, - Israel has the right to retaliate to terrorist monstrosities, and the Palestinian Authority did not fulfill its undertaking to prevent terrorist attacks. MAWLOUD OULD DADDAH Nouakchott, Mauritania Lying over the line Sir, - Holocaust denial should not be preserved under the right to free speech. Neither, for that matter, should any form of genocide denial be perpetuated under such an umbrella. In David Irving's case such denial exceeds opinion; he documents his so-called scholarship as "evidence." Irving's was not a violation of free speech but a crossing of the line between opinion, which freedom of speech protects, and lying, which it does not. ("David Irving has a right to free speech, too," Peter Singer, March 2). MIRIAM A. COPE Pomona, California Sir, - Peter Singer makes a number of abstract arguments defending freedom of expression while deliberately ignoring the historical reality of the Holocaust in Austria and Germany. In both countries the genocide of the Jewish people was a reality. It became government policy and the military forces of those countries carried out the murders. Thus Austria and Germany have real and immediate reasons, as well as historically special circumstances, for outlawing Holocaust denial. Mr. Singer is commenting from a university environment, where all things are equal and where life and death are abstractions, where no one really lives or dies. The Austrians are dealing with the blackest and most horrific period of their history, when their educated and sophisticated Gentile citizens helped to brutally murder six million innocent and defenseless Jews. The Austrians can never atone for the Holocaust, but they can and must do their best to punish those who would deny reality and thus try to absolve them from their historic and legal responsibility. Given the most recent Iranian threat to "wipe Israel off the map," the sentence on David Irving was most appropriate. KENNETH S. BESIG Kiryat Arba Code of behavior Sir, - I found it most interesting that the world Christian community did not go on strike, hold protest marches, burn mosques and embassies or demand that the author of The Da Vinci Code be beheaded ("Copy, right?" Letters, March 2). What he wrote is total blasphemy of the Christian religion. Imagine if a Jew had written that book - wow! Wouldn't there have been boycotts by the world's Christian communities of anything Jewish or related to Israel? MORDECAI BEN NATAN Johannesburg Plan for restraint Sir, - In your March 5 front page-report on the Nazareth basilica attack, you reported that Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra "praised the police for their great restraint and sensitivity in difficult conditions." Beautiful! Now I look forward to hearing Minister Ezra say the same words when his policemen come to oust those fine young men and women from their settlements or outposts. Specifically, let them leave their horses and batons behind ("Nazareth basilica assailant: All I want is my children back"). YUVAL HYMAN Rishon Lezion We're odd bods Sir, - Kudos to Nathan Lopez Cardozo on his article "Eternally other" (February 28). It was by far the most enlightened and beautifully-researched explanation of our "existential oddity" that I have seen. Indeed we are odd, and we do have a special mission: to be a light unto the nations. We should go out among our secular Zionists, who strive to be just like every other nation, and tell them that "no nation can live with a borrowed identity." Splendidly worded! JENNY WEIL Jerusalem Hope for the future Sir, - I have struggled with my contemporaries since I was in school myself for the principles of freedom and nurturance, and altruistic personal development for all. As an educational psychologist my first impulse on reading Tom Hope's excellent "A misuse of love and fear" (March 2) was to forward it to others. Then I read that he had only recently graduated from high school. How wonderful! I haven't felt such hope for the future in quite a while, and all because of your young writer's sensibilities and effort. To paraphrase the great poet and writer Delmore Schwartz, he could do worse than devote his life to this one topic, although I'm quite sure he won't, and that's perfectly fine. PAUL H. WIENER Hinckley, Minnesota Cranes collapse elsewhere, too Sir, - I hold no brief for Israeli crane operators whose negligence led to recent serious accidents. But Martin Lewis's implying that such things don't happen in the UK or other "first-world" nations just doesn't hold water ("Crane collapse," March 6). A quick search under "collapse" at www.vertikal.net/en/index.php - devoted to cranes - shows that such accidents are all too frequent, including the following: May 26,1995: two killed, London, UK; May 21, 2000: three killed, London, UK; April 29, 2003: two killed, Dusseldorf, Germany; February 3: 2004: no injuries, Dublin, Eire; February 16, 2004: four killed, Ohio, US; July 9, 2004: no injuries, Cardiff, UK; February 11, 2005: two killed, Worthing, UK. YEHOSHUA SIVAN Safed Rightly uncrowned Sir, - Re "Oscars shun 'Munich,' 'Paradise Now" (Entertainment, March 7): A bit of sense prevails in a topsy-turvy world. Whatever the political overtones of the first film, several friends who saw it declared it boring; while no attempt to understand what, if you'll forgive a dreadful pun, makes suicide bombers tick should ever be lauded, let alone laureled. Understanding leads to acceptance. Need one say more? S. ABRAHAMS London