Letters to the Editor November 3, 2021: Israel vs. Diaspora?

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

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

Kudos to Maayan Hoffman for her spot-on analysis (“Did Israel harm its ties with the Diaspora by closing its doors to Jews during COVID?” November 2). She hit the proverbial nail right on the head. As a dual US-Israeli citizen who travels regularly between both, the dichotomy between the two countries could not be more pronounced.

On the one hand, we have the United States, a world-leading democracy. On the other hand – Israel, the epitome of a socialist state (with the government employing an associate-assistant director of (fill in the blank) in each agency. Is it any wonder the party-line on regulations pertaining to those entering the country has not been transmitted properly? Not at all. Remember the socialist mantra: Make work!


Tzur Yitzhak

Seriously? do you think that only Diaspora Jews were affected by the COVID bureaucracy met at the airports? Stop creating issues that don’t exist; this type of reporting is a blatant example of fake news that only benefits politicians and unnecessarily creates angst amongst us. I for one am happy that restrictions are tough. Let our country get back on its feet and move on with our lives in a healthy fashion.


Ginot Shomron

 Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Sex sells

Regarding “The incredible shrinking Bill Clinton” (November 2), Shmuley’s Boteach’s article, which I actually read in its entirety (something I rarely do), was an eye-opener. First of all, it was a rare article by Boteach where he doesn’t claim to be best friends with whomever he’s writing about. 

Secondly, the entire article was about Bill Clinton, not Shmuley Boteach. Thirdly, as the author of Kosher Sex and Kosher Lust, Boteach should well know that sex sells. 

Whatever dismal ratings this series Impeachment is experiencing on TV, they are much higher ratings than any show about the rest of Clinton’s miserable presidency would have had. But Shmuley does us a service in reminding us of Clinton’s failures as the world leader.

One can only hope and pray that America survives the current administration.


Ma’aleh Adumim   

Averting catastrophe 

Kol hakavod for your eloquent editorial, “Changing climate” (November 1), which properly argues that reducing climate threats is “something that is essential for our children and grandchildren.” 

You discuss the importance of reaching Israel’s “new, highly ambitious zero-emissions goal by 2050” and several things necessary to accomplish it, including prioritizing renewable energy and improving public transportation. However, how can this goal possibly be reached while cows and other farmed animals continue to emit methane, a greenhouse gas about 100 times as potent as CO2 during the 10-20 years it is in the atmosphere?

It is time to recognize that there is absolutely no way to avert climate catastrophe without a societal shift to plant-based diets because that is the only approach that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and has the potential to reduce current very dangerous atmospheric CO2 levels to safe levels by planting billions of carbon-absorbing trees on the vast areas of land worldwide currently used for grazing and growing feed crops for animals.

Since there are now so many delicious plant-based substitutes for meat and other animal products, it is much easier to switch diets today, and this is essential to efforts to leave a decent, habitable world for future generations.



Peace dreams

Regarding “Is Israeli-Palestinian peace only a dream of the naive?” (November 2), of course, the Palestinians can change. In 1964, the founding charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization denied any claim to Gaza or the West Bank. But as soon as Israel liberated those areas, while defending her people from the genocidal intentions of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, the PLO discovered that Gaza and the West Bank were Palestinian land which the Palestinians wanted for a state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

However, Palestinian leaders reminded the world, the creation of the Palestinian state by no means negated the demand that Israel give the Palestine refugees the homes that, the refugees claimed, had been lost to their parents and grandparents in what had become the modern State of Israel. Take home lesson – the rhetoric may have changed a bit, but the desire is still the same; a Jewish state cannot be allowed to exist in the Middle East.

Let’s not worry about dreams or whether Israeli offers for peace have been generous enough. If the Palestinian leaders want a state, they need to get started building the infrastructure needed to ensure that state’s viability and they need to tell the Palestine refugees that they will not be welcomed in Israel. Rather, they will be enabled to rebuild their lives in the Palestinian state alongside their Palestinian brothers and sisters.



Start-up clean-up

Wow! Herb Keinon’s article, “The environment has never been a major priority for Israel” (November 1), greatly expresses my sentiments about how I feel when I drive on the dangerous, crowded, ever-widening roads of Israel, when I gaze out over landscapes that used to be beautiful, but are now filled with apartment towers and cranes, and when I cannot walk more than two paces without seeing trash.  

I moved into the upper part of Rosh Ha’ayin, where thousands of people have moved over the past two years; it is an opportunity to witness the extent to which the relationship with trash and the environment are lost on people. Daily, I witness reckless throwing out of cardboard boxes (not broken down), mounds of household items, mountains of trash from chutes and underground receptacles picked up by heaped trucks to take it all ‘away,’ wherever that is. As long as it disappears, “hakol beseder” (it’ll be alright). 

Like other issues we have seen in Israel that are not addressed until a tragedy happens, I fear we won’t wake up to the need to tend to the waste we produce until it is in our face. It seems that few care if there are recycling programs. We hear whining when there is a chance that plastic forks will be banned, or when we have to bring a shopping bag of our own to the supermarket, so how can we expect people will be willing to walk a few extra steps to recycle? And the large supermarkets are supposedly reducing plastic shopping bag use, but have increased plastic use tenfold by now wrapping all of our fruits and vegetables in plastics.  Construction waste is unloaded on nearly every side road and grove. The Start-Up Nation behaves like a third-world nation when it comes to trash. How about some true innovation and cooperation about this?

It is wearisome and sad. I would love to see the nation make cleanliness and preserving nature become a top priority, but Keinon’s comments on the excuses are ones that I, too, have heard. I hope that it is a changing, and that the 120-person delegation that has gone to Glasgow marks a sea-change.


Rosh Ha’ayin

Carrot and stick

The answer to Ruthie Blum’s question “Is America’s visa-waiver carrot a stick in disguise?” (October 29)  is probably neither. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is meant to reduce the pressure on US consular sections in countries whose populations overwhelmingly qualify for visas. Why spend valuable work hours reviewing applications that are almost never rejected? 

I am a retired US diplomat.

There are two fundamental tests for issuing a US visa anywhere in the world:

1. Is the applicant likely to return to his/her home country rather than remain in the US?

2. Does he or she have sufficient funds for the trip without working in the US illegally?

Unfortunately, many Israelis – especially young people leaving the army – find it difficult to meet these tests. That explains why, as Blum notes, “Israelis requesting visas often come to their embassy interviews equipped with reams of documents… as proof that their stay in the US would be temporary.” 

VWP criteria stress a non-immigrant visa refusal rate below 3% and a reciprocal visa waiver for US nationals, among other requirements. One reason why Israel has not been included in the VWP until now is the high refusal rate for Israeli visa applicants: 80% above the maximum refusal rate for acceptance into the VWP. Also, homeland security officials worry that too many Israelis overstay their visas. Other reported issues include Israel’s strict scrutiny of Palestinian Americans traveling to Israel, thus not fulfilling the reciprocity requirement, and the fear of some US lawmakers and intelligence officials that the country’s entry into the program would facilitate Israeli espionage.  

Listing countries in the VWP, Blum says that it is “ridiculous” that Israel is not already included. She offers no evidence, however, that any of these countries fails to meet the strict VWP criteria.  

Perhaps US officials are now considering relaxing the VWP criteria because of exceptional staffing pressures occasioned by the ongoing pandemic. It will certainly be a boon to Israelis if they are able to travel to the US without enduring the arduous visa application process. This might have happened years ago if Israelis had not violated US visa rules more often than citizens of many other countries. 

It should be emphasized that a visa or visa waiver only allows the traveler to request admission to the US at a port of entry. The Customs and Border Protection officer makes the final determination. 

I well remember when, as a young consular officer at a US Embassy, I issued a visa to an Israeli who promised he was “only going to the US for a brief holiday.” I was disappointed to learn later that this same Israeli had been denied entry to the US when a search of his luggage revealed two pounds of heroin that he planned to sell to finance his “holiday.”


Zichron Ya’acov

Accepting Orthodoxy

In commenting on Oded Revivi’s recent article, I believe that Yizhar Hess (“Revivi is not alone,” October 29) has misunderstood the position of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed. Rabbi Melamed is indeed one of the greatest current sages of the Jewish people, and he was sharply critical of the disgusting behavior of the ignorant youths who tore up prayer books and interfered with a Torah reading at the Kotel recently.

Rabbi Melamed has also publicly met with a very fine French woman reform rabbi.

But Rabbi Melamed has made his position clear. He believes that it is counter-productive to drive less religious people, or those who identify with various non-Orthodox movements, away from praying at the Kotel or participating in some way as Jews at our holy places. 

He says that we have not gained any followers in that way, and have probably lost thousands and tens of thousands by pushing them away.

But he has made it very clear that he is accepting them as interested Jews who at the moment do not observe and understand in the way that traditional Orthodox Jews do, but with the ultimate aim that by being accepted warmly, with love, as fellow Jews, they will eventually come to learn and adopt traditional Orthodox practice. 

They – the people – are to be accepted, in the famous words describing Ishmael simply translated as “where he is now” – but not their practices or deviations from traditional Judaism, such as patrilineal descent.



Kosher practices

Few would disagree that the current system of kashrut certification is in dire need of an overhaul (“Kashrut reform,” editorial, October 29), but would be equally uncertain that the answer lies in the reforms that have been newly passed. From what I’ve heard and read, the only major change will be the owners of the pockets that fees for services rendered will line. And despite the optimism exuded in your editorial on the subject, the opportunity for corruption will, if anything, increase. Independent agents will operate, for the most part, on their own and will have only a troubled conscience to keep them from accepting envelopes of cash as payment for turning their eyes aside at the right moment. Such consciences, unfortunately, are far and few between.

But while attention has been given to the bureaucratic modifications resulting from the reform, what has barely been noted is that kashrut certification is currently very much based on an honor system. Supervisors who are paid to oversee the kashrut of food-related establishments do so only sporadically. They show up according to prearranged schedules and hastily verify that the rabbinate’s guidelines and requirements are being complied with. What goes on in between visits is anybody’s guess, but you know what they say about cats and mice. Although I have yet to read any established protocol relative to the reform, I suspect the current modus operandi will remain unchanged. 

Your editorial, moreover, does not seem to be concerned about the quality of the supervision resulting from the upcoming changes. Other than the fact that the independent agencies will be operating under the umbrella of the rabbinate, assumptions are being made that the supervisors will be properly trained and knowledgeable regarding what makes a chicken kosher. A certificate of kashrut issued from the rabbinate provides a reasonably high degree of confidence. A statement of compliance coming from Kosher Ways and Means – or whatever – may be somewhat less inspiring, particularly for tourists who are blissfully unaware of the political turmoil that kashrut in this country is generating. Their confusion will be rampant.

Case in point. Your Billboard supplement reviewed a restaurant that receives kosher certification from Tzohar. I know what Tzohar is, many Jerusalem Post readers know what Tzohar is, but do kosher-observant visitors from Europe, Canada or Mexico know what Tzohar is? They’ll shrug and find another shawarma shop with a more recognizable certificate. This is a hurdle that Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana will find challenging to say the least.


Ginot Shomron

Killer leader

Gershon Baskin proposed in his article, “Looking for the future Palestinian leadership” (October 28), that Marwan Barghouti should be considered as the future president of the “state of Palestine.”

Barghouti is presently serving five life sentences plus 40 years in an Israeli prison for the murders of five, if not more, people and being one of the leaders of the Second Intifada. Baskin believes, however, that this killer is a “leader” with “integrity” with a “clear vision of peace between Israel and ‘Palestine.’”

That Baskin sees the moral equivalence between a murderer and one who would lead an as yet undefined Palestinian state, the same way he would believe that the terrorist attacks against Israel are “justified” because of Israeli aggressive defense tactics to prevent the bombings, is nothing short of catastrophic. He believes this man, Barghouti, is principled and ready to lead his people.

Baskin offers no idea as to how Israel would even consider releasing this murderer, let alone allowing him on an international stage to lead people who are bent on our destruction.

I propose to Baskin, who states in his byline his dedication to the State of Israel and peace between her and her neighbors: Give up your day job and devote the rest of your time on Earth to the wonderful people of the land beside us, who would rather we disappear, and perhaps refocus your “dedication” to promoting peace from within that Arab society.