Letters to the Editor, November 8, 2021: What did Rabbi Ovadia say?

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

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

What did Rabbi Ovadia say?

Hayim Leiter (“From Croatia with love,” Oct 27) described the harmonious relationship between several functionaries from different movements and his positive perception that the cooperation between them “was about making sure that those we [they] serve had a meaningful and hopefully lasting connection with our tradition.”

While that sentiment is admirable and should be a focus in rabbinic leadership, there are some disturbing aspects to the article. First, twice he maligns other mohalim who have performed brit milah in Croatia. Second, he makes an erroneous claim that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef permitted the ritual of metzitza to be done with gauze.

Rav Ovadia Yosef didn’t. And, he writes, that after a “frantic search for an alternate rabbi to oversee the wedding” that he was to miss because of a conflict with a brit milah, finally he was “lucky enough to find someone who was not only available but capable.” Really? there was no other Orthodox rabbi in the State of Israel who was available to perform the wedding? If the couple had their own reasons to switch from Leiter to a Conservative religious leader, so be it; but for Leiter to claim that a Conservative rabbi performing a wedding is equivalent to an Orthodox one perhaps belies his claim to being an Orthodox rabbi.

RABBI ELIEZER SIMCHA WEISZMember of The Chief Rabbinate Council of IsraelJerusalem

If it’s Rosh Hodesh...

As I saw the headline “Haredi protesters clash with police during Women of the Wall services” (November 7), I recalled the title of a movie I saw over half a century ago, If it’s Tuesday, It Must be Belgium. In Israel’s case: “If it’s Rosh Hodesh, it’s time for haredim to protest.”

We are supposed to judge all fellow Jews to the side of merit, so I will assume these haredim went to the Western Wall for the Rosh Hodesh prayer service. When they concluded their prayers, they then turned their attention to the Women of the Wall.

It should only be!


When I go to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, I take my hat off. I don’t like to go bareheaded but I do. That is because the authorities who are responsible for the site have determined that this is what local and religious custom demand. 

When I go to visit the Taj Mahal in India, I take my shoes off. I don’t like to walk barefoot but I do, because the authorities who are responsible for the site have determined that this is what local and religious custom demand. 

When I go rafting in the white waters of Queensland, I put on a helmet and life jacket. I find that very cumbersome, but I do, because the authorities who are responsible for the site have determined that these are safety demands. 

Why, oh why do the Women of the Wall not respect that which the authorities who are responsible for the site have determined is what local and religious custom demand?


I do not believe that Women of the Wall ever intended to cause problems at the Kotel. I thought they were, and are, women who simply wished to celebrate Rosh Hodesh (traditionally a women’s holiday) as a group, in the holiest site where Jews were allowed to pray, conducting their service as services are conducted in many synagogues throughout the world. However, I also recall that leaders of WoW were not enthusiastic about a proposal, made many years ago, designating Robinson’s Arch as the place for egalitarian prayer; WoW did not consider Robinson’s Arch to be part of the Kotel. And it turned out that there were some issues about access to the place which was an active archaeological site at the time.

Given this background, I was delighted to read Yochi Rappeport’s opinion (“The Kotel agreement must be implemented,” November 4) calling for implementation of the Western Wall agreement. I am convinced that the best solution is having separate sections of the Kotel designated for Orthodox and non-Orthodox prayer. I pray that all parties will respect the rights of each to pray in accordance with their traditions in their designated area. This means that the police must prevent “infiltrations” of either area – no women in prayer shawls reading from the Torah in the Orthodox section, but also no construction of partitions or noisy disruption of the prayers of mixed groups in the non-Orthodox section.


Keeping Israelis safe

Mark Feldman (“Throwing open the doors to tourists,” November 5) makes a compelling case for the opening of foreign tourism citing the economic needs of tour guides, hotels and tourist sites, and the cultural benefits of visiting Israel in general. However I think he may be overstating the case. Israel has maintained a leading world role in keeping its citizens safe during corona, broken only at times due to the importing of virus variants mostly through foreign visitors. 

Careful checking and short-term quarantining have proved to be effective in keeping such variants out of the country. Nor are these requirements particularly onerous, as implied. 

During my recent return to Israel from the US, I got in a short line in New York City, with similarly motivated people, to receive my PCR test before embarking, and once here in Ben-Gurion, took a second PCR, likewise without fanfare. My results came to my phone within hours, and since I arrived mid-morning, it would have been in time to go out to dinner, should I have so desired. 

Any extra bother to me was far outweighed by the knowledge that Israel is doing all it can to keep me and my fellow residents safe. 


Legitimate leadership

In your editorial of November 3 (“Mensch up”), you attack the Likud Party for appearing to deny the legitimacy of the Bennett-Lapid government, and you state: “there’s a legitimate government in place... a prime minister is replaced only in the ballot boxes.” The government may be technically legitimate but it is certainly not democratic. The public did not vote for Naftali Bennett to be prime minister. In the March election this year Bennett’s party, Yamina, received only 6.2% of the votes, seven seats in the Knesset, and, as he himself said, four days before Israel went to the polls, to be prime minister with even ten seats would be undemocratic. By his act, Bennett has created a previously unheard of and dangerous situation in Israel whereby, under certain circumstances, the head of any small party can inveigle his or her way into the prime minister’s seat.

Moreover, to jump into that high office, Bennett broke a whole slew of promises he had made to his voters, some of these in writing. The Post’s political correspondent, Gil Hoffman, has applied adjectives such as “rogue Yamina MK” or “renegade” to MK Amichai Chikli who refuses to support this government and refuses to resign from the party saying that he represents the true views of Yamina voters. There are many who would see Chikli’s conduct as honest and principled.

Just as problematic in my eyes is your attitude to the Ra’am Party and its leader Mansour Abbas, who, in your editorial, you present as a kind of amiable, avuncular Santa Claus, offering to distribute 100 million shekels of the many billions of shekels Ra’am is receiving in the budget just passed, to the haredi parties. This offer you describe as “refreshing” and “even magnanimous.” I cannot explain why Abbas made this offer but a quick examination of the history of the Ra’am Party paints a disturbing picture, very different from the one the editorial writer wishes your readers to believe.

Ra’am is a religious Muslim party associated with the extremist Moslem Brotherhood movement. The Ra’am charter was reviewed in 2019 at a conference in Nazareth, reportedly chaired by Abbas. This charter calls Israel a “Zionist occupying project,” supports a “right of return” for Palestinians, and says there can be no allegiance to the Jewish state.

Mansour Abbas himself has refused to condemn attacks on Israeli soldiers or the police; other Knesset members from his party have been recorded making anti-Israel comments. MK Waleed Taha, now chairman of the influential Internal Affairs and Environment Committee of the Knesset, is known for a whole series of controversial remarks against Israel. He participated in a demonstration in solidarity with Arabs suspected of attacks on Jews in the mixed cities in May of this year. He claimed then that there were Israeli attempts to “defile” the al-Aqsa Mosque. After the escape of Palestinian terrorists from Gilboa prison in September, he called jailed terrorists, “prisoners of conscience” who have “paid the price for our just Palestinian cause.” Ra’am MK Iman Khatib Yassin was videoed on the Temple Mount railing at the Israeli security forces, calling them “barbarous racists, occupying police who are carrying out murderous attacks against our youth.”

Finally, Channel 13 has published pictures of Razi Issa, a senior official in Ra’am, who played an important role in Ra’am’s negotiations to enter the Bennett-Lapid coalition, meeting with prominent Hamas officials in Gaza who thanked him for a contribution he had made from Association 48, a charity that he heads. This naturally leads to questions about the nature of the connection between Ra’am and the Hamas, questions which certainly bear investigation, despite Mansour Abbas’s protestations and denials.


Baskin for president

I have been following Gershon Baskin’s columns for a number of years. He has provided analyses of the Palestinian Authority and its relationship to Israel that are more detailed and perceptive than are available from any other source.

As he noted in his column “Looking for the future Palestinian leadership” (October 28), he has established personal relations and has been in regular contact and intensive dialogue with leading figures both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

He notes that Marwan Barghouti would be the ideal candidate to replace the soon to retire Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority. However, Barghouti is in an Israeli prison serving a sentence of five life terms plus 40 years, a judgment imposed upon him for being one of the leaders of the Second Intifada and the killing of at least five people. He obviously cannot be released.

In light of this situation, the choice of someone to replace Abbas with someone who is acceptable to both Israel and the Palestinians is of extreme importance. Based upon Baskin’s knowledge of the Palestinian Authority and his acquaintance with and acceptance by its leading figures, it is quite apparent that he would be the perfect candidate. The fact that he is not a Palestinian should easily be overcome by making whatever changes are required in the Palestinian law to enable his candidacy. This should not be a problem since the law is flexible enough to allow Abbas to extend his four-year term by an additional decade. This is a perfect example of how seemingly unsolvable problems can be resolved by thinking out of the box.


Gershon Baskin’s “Greening Palestine” (November 4) prompts me finally to say he deserves a hat tip.

His article focuses on the electricity situation in the West Bank and his attempts to convince the Palestinians to install cost-effective solar fields, thereby reducing costs and gaining a modicum of energy independence from Israel. Alas, Baskin concludes that the reason why little green energy exists in the West Bank is because of the failure to sign 20-year Power Purchase Agreements which would be required by any sane investor. Apparently, the “Palestinian Authority, the central government, refused or was unable to pressure local municipalities into signing the contracts.”

Thanks, Mr. Baskin, for educating us all on this particular situation. However, it is yet another lesson as to the dismal governance that pervades Palestinian society in the West Bank. They know what to do but fail or refuse to change their situation for the better. And these are the politicians, government officials, etc., who believe they can run a state of their own. It also may explain why, in recent polls, a majority of Palestinians do not want to see a two-state solution.


Gershon Baskin reports that he’s willing to assist in installing solar panels for electricity with any Palestinian municipality that is willing to sign the necessary agreements. Yet no one is willing to cooperate. Not one. Mr. Baskin offers no explanation despite the many advantages this would bring.

Maybe Baskin should first address the burning of refuse with its accompanying poison pollution that it emits into the air. Yet that is neglected as well.

The bottom line is that no one in the Palestinian Authority really cares about the basic needs of its people. Maybe Baskin can start there.


Climate carnival

Ruthie Blum’s column “A climate carnival to remember and ridicule” (November 5) was brilliant and right on as usual. While I totally agree with the need to cut down on pollution as much as possible, I’ve had more than enough of the “climate change” nonsense being spouted by the Thunbergs of the world. To date, they have not satisfactorily explained what caused the various Ice Ages, and what ended them. I can answer that question in two words: Climate Change!!