April 6: What threat?

Religious Zionists have always been very much present in the military and economic life of Israel.

Driven to drink
Sir, – A potentially explosive cocktail was mixed in The Jerusalem Post in recent days.
“Debunking the fascist label” (Editorial, April 1) was the first ingredient, “Jewish nationalism, not democracy, holds top place for Israel’s youth” (April 3) the second, and “Report: Israel faces ‘existential threat’ of becoming a religious state” (April 4) the third.
The word fascism is abhorrent to me, but is there another word to describe adequately the plethora of laws that restrict actions considered an intrinsic part of a democratic society? The existential threat stares us in the face daily due to the inordinate political power of the haredi community. Those who pander to their whims, economically and socially, are part of the problem. The modern Orthodox – erudite religious Zionists – do nothing to mitigate the damage that the God-fearing haredim are doing and seem blissfully unaware that their Zionist dream may be going down the drain The worst thing of all is the rise of nationalism among our young, a factor that did not exist before 1967, when we were happy and proud just to live in our own state. Is this the result of an education system that infers that Arabs living in our midst and in the occupied territories have no rights, or that instills in them the idea that we are better than everyone else? Or is it the present leadership, which instills fear and insecurity, and the inference that human rights are for Jews only? The Arabs surrounding us are no longer the problem. We are.
The media are also culpable. An atmosphere exists that we are not honestly facing.
We, the mass of decent people with genuine values, are being dragged along in the groundswell.
The cocktail is mixed. Who will be imbibing?
Tel Aviv
What threat?
Sir, – Regarding the University of Haifa report on the “existential threat” of becoming a religious state, this is an old fallacy designed and restructured to pit one section of the population against the other.
Religious Zionists have always been very much present in the military and economic life of Israel. They are continuing to have children, which will be even more of an asset. The haredi population has changed and will continue to change.
Young haredi men are now serving in the army and are in the work force.
What is needed now in Israel is an appreciation of the population growth of the religious communities, and special efforts to enable this sector to achieve the best in secular education that goes hand-in-hand with Torah education. Israel then will continue to enjoy the enormous creative force that lies in their intellectual capacity and love of Israel, and the rest of the country will be imbued with some of their patriotism and creative and spiritual dynamics.
Evil not an ailment
Sir, – “Eichmann’s only regret: Not finishing the job” (April 4) is a fine and noteworthy historic news alert, except for one slip of the keyboard – he didn’t have a “demented psyche.”
When we discuss these kinds of villains, we need to stay clear of calling them victims of craziness, retardation, stupidity or other brain or mental ailments.
The adjective always needs to express their blemish as being unethical and extraordinary – words like immoral, evil, wicked, malevolent, horrendous, hideous, disgusting.
The magic gardener
Sir, – Regarding “Shalom Maagan, gardner of Kibbutz Lavi and the passing of an era” by David E.Y. Sarna (Comment & Features, April 3), the very first home that my wife and I had in Israel after six months of ulpan in Afula was Kibbutz Lavi.
We arrived at the end of 1969 and remained there for a year and a half.
My first impression was how lush and green the kibbutz was and it was hard to believe that members spent years clearing rocks so that Shalom Marcovich, as we knew him, could perform his magic.
One of the compelling factors that helped us make the transition from New York to Israel was the privilege of knowing people like Shalom and his wife, Edith. After we left the kibbutz, we always made sure we stopped by to say hello to Shalom and Edith whenever we visited.
David Sarna can truly be proud of his grandfather and the example he set. Shalom will be sorely missed by all the people whose life he touched – and considering the fact that thousands of people passed through Kibbutz Lavi during his lifetime, that is no small feat.

Here versus there
Sir, – Rabbi Yosef Blau (“The struggle for the soul of religious Zionism,” Comment & Features, April 3) painted an idyllic picture of modern Orthodoxy in the United States versus the “messianic” Orthodox elements here. He decries what he perceives as contrasting mentalities here yet states: “The multiplicity of views [in the US] on most issues within the boundaries of Orthodoxy is a given.” Why does he deny us here the right to a multiplicity of views? Blau is not too happy with the religious youth in the settlements but finds so much good in Diaspora youth. Yet he forgets that the former serve in the Israeli army and carry the holy burden of historic responsibility while their peers there do not. They also live closer to Itamar so that they, “the settler youth,” may see reality more clearly and vividly than do Blau and his youth.
He chides the rabbis for “seeing Western morality as conflicting with Torah morality.”
Come now, but of course there are many points of conflict.
Does Blau believe that Western morality is equal to or ascendant over Torah morality? He seems to credit the American Jewish community with “profound growth of formal Jewish education for women.”
Does Israel lag behind or has Israel been an innovator and a true pioneer in the field of education for women? Every generation has its mitzvot that cry out for fulfillment.
Yes, the mitzva of settling the land (and, incidentally, living in it) is “paramount,” and the state was established precisely for those reasons.
This is not Messianic. I call it being in touch with the essence of Judaism in our time. Jewish history is being written here.

Sir, – At the end of his piece, Yosef Blau states: “...but I realize that living in America reduces my influence.” Immediately below this, the Post notes that he is both president of the Religious Zionists of America and spiritual adviser at RIETS of Yeshiva University.
Blau is correct that his influence on public policy and debate here in Israel is greatly reduced due to his current location. Imagine for a moment were he to make aliya. Imagine the influence he would have.
Imagine all his students and the thousands of RZA members seeing him board that plane for Israel. There would be no greater spiritual message.
Ma’aleh Adumim
Tough, not clean
Sir, – “Enough already!” is the right thing to say (“Lindenstrauss launches probe of ‘Bibitours,’” April 1). Who cares how much Prime Minister Netanyahu spent where, on whom, for meals, cigars or whatever, over 10 years ago? Israel lives in a tough neighborhood.
We face an enemy that is clever and determined and has no scruples. Our military officers and governmental officials have to be tough – set the bar with excessive scrupulousness and who will serve? Given the choice between an immaculate boy scout and a tough guy with spots, Israel had better choose the latter.