April 19: Shocked (not)

All this week's speeches by government officials about "lessons of the Holocaust" lie in garbage deposits.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Shocked (not) Sir, - The act of terror on the United States campus deservedly put a nation into shock and was described as "horrifying" by the president ("Virginia Tech massacre leaves a nation feeling more insecure than ever," April 18). In our battle-fatigued nation, on the eve of our anniversary of "independence," we have experienced years of almost daily terror rained down on us in the form of missiles from Gaza. No longer is anyone shocked, let alone horrified. Road accidents receive more media coverage. It has become a fact of life to be lived with. All this week's speeches by government officials about "lessons of the Holocaust" lie in garbage deposits. YEHUDA OPPENHEIM Jerusalem Rabbinical folly Sir, - Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu's remarks on the responsibility of Reform Jews for the Holocaust were both outrageous and unwise for such a personality. It's not the first time. I recommend that the rabbi ponder Albert Einstein's reflection: "All I want to know are God's thoughts; the rest are details." He might also remember Abraham's request that God spare Sodom - If He could find 10 righteous people - and that the reply was positive. Based on this, we can certainly proclaim that there was at least a minyan of worthy non-Reform Jews in Germany. I might add that, as a former chief rabbi, Rabbi Eliyahu should avoid pirate radio ("Reform leader condemns Rabbi Eliyahu for blaming Holocaust on Reform Jews," April 18). HENRY WEIL Jerusalem Auschwitz theme park Sir, - Last Friday I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau for the second time in a year. My wife and friends were struck, as I had been on my previous visit, by the indifference of the local people to the sites among which they live. Modern homes have been built with a good view of the inside of both camps. Auschwitz boasts its very own shopping plaza, hamburger outlet and now even a new hotel, all facing the main gate. We were particularly upset to see farmers ploughing the land up to and over the railway line right in front of the railway entrance to Birkenau. The debate goes on as to how many people died there - but one thing is for certain. Some of the EU food that will be eaten in Poland, or possibly in Britain, later this year will have been grown alongside the entrance to the camp, on land thick with the ashes of our ancestors. Has anything changed? It's tempting to think so as one wanders around the old Jewish quarter and sees restaurants and shops bearing Jewish names serving the public. But this is the theme park - the Polish version of a Jewish Disney. It's a place where Poles can and do make good livings pretending to be Jews and pandering to the ever-increasing number of Jewish tourists. Our Friday-night meal in a klezmer restaurant, complete with a non-Jewish rendition of "Hava Nagila," was typical of the tackiness. We were, of course, in good company. Last weekend Krakow was bursting with Jews. They had come from all over for the March of the Living. I talked to countless young Israelis, Orthodox and secular, who were in Krakow soaking up the sunshine and atmosphere before taking part in a tribute to the dead. By the middle of the afternoon on Saturday the main market square was teeming with people and Hebrew could be heard everywhere. Then at 3 o'clock, like flies to jam, the fascists arrived; brown-uniformed, mainly thuggish-looking skinheads. Hundreds of them shouting, screaming and waving their fists at the Jews. Some raised their arms, drawing attention to their armpit SS tattoos. They marched in an orderly column around the massive square, separated from the public by lines of black-uniformed police with riot gear. They carried their racist banners, their Polish swastikas and even a thinly disguised portrait of Hitler. Perhaps this is the real Poland. JULIAN SORSBY Witham, Essex, UK Peace diktat Sir, - In "Have we become afraid of peace?" (April 13) David Kimche comes down on Prime Minister Olmert for not jumping at the chance of accepting, in principle, the peace initiative of the Riyadh summit. Even a child can tell that the real word is not "initiative," but "diktat." The Arabs are far more skilled negotiators than we Israelis. They have bled us after every agreement. In the Oslo Accord - through negotiations - we allowed a world-class terrorist and his entire army into Israel. As a result we lost 2,000 Israelis in Arafat's intifada, as compared to 600 in the Six Day War fought against three Arab states backed by the USSR. Doesn't an expert diplomat see something strange in the requirement that we accept "in principle," and in advance, terms put before us? Put simply, it means our basic agreement to Arab demands. We defeated the Arabs on the battlefield four times. If we had real leadership the Arabs would be asking us for terms. Would Mr. Kimche then be demanding, in principle, their recognition of our conquests and a reduction in Arab armaments? CHAYIM SEIDEN Jerusalem Male vulnerability Sir, - The worthy women who wrote Ehud Olmert and Haim Ramon "harshly worded letters against Ramon's possible appointment as finance minister" are apparently not familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan's "Take a pair of sparkling eyes" from The Gondoliers, a witty take on feminine wiles and male susceptibility and a favorite choice of the local tenor at church suppers. Re the "eyes" in the song, the bashful young man is advised: "Do not heed their mild surprise / Having passed the Rubicon / Take a pair of rosy lips..." - words which would bring gasps and titters from the very proper ladies present, and a large round of general applause at the triumphant finale: "Take my counsel, happy man / Take and keep it if you can, if you can, if you ca-a-a-a-n." In other words: Feminine wiles are expressed via body language, and man's susceptibility makes him vulnerable to action ("Hirchson forges ahead, but time may be running out," April 17). MIRIAM L. GAVARIN Jerusalem No sponsor for exercise Sir, - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich's "For all her sisters" (April 7) reported on how a cancer foundation gets support from industries linked to the cause of cancer or benefit from its occurrence. It shed light on a little-recognized game that leads to sub-optimal public health. Screening for early breast or colon cancer detection is far more highly publicized than physical activity, despite the latter being more effective in preventing cancer and promoting health. Regular exercise reduces breast and colon cancer incidence by 30% or more, as well as mortality and morbidity from the most frequent diseases in Western countries. We are often exposed to media ads and coverage - virtual colonoscopies for screening disease, new drugs, and novel research into detecting or treating cancer. By contrast we rarely, if ever, see ads promoting physical activity. The ads always boost some vested interest - screening clinics, drug companies, research institutes - while exercise has no sponsor. Paradoxically, the most efficient and least costly ways of enhancing public health, for example, exercise and smoking cessation, are least promoted because they get the least support from the industry. MAYER BREZIS, MD MPH Professor of Medicine Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center Jerusalem Sir, - Re "Specialist says colonoscopy obsolete" (April 13): My joy is boundless. It is great news to know that soon my behind will be behind the times. NAME WITHHELD Jerusalem