April 9: Matza & immortality

Is it right to thumb our noses at the heroic struggle of our forebears to keep our traditions against insurmountable odds?

letters thumb (photo credit: )
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Matza & immortality Sir, - As a secular Israeli who has inordinate respect for Judaism and the history of the Jewish people, I would like to protest the court ruling that hametz may be sold, though not openly displayed, during Pessah ("Shas appeals to Friedmann to intervene in battle against court's hametz decision," April 7). As a history buff, I have read many stories of our ancestors' struggle in the Diaspora, against insurmountable odds, to keep our traditions. Now that we have our own homeland, is it right to thumb our noses at the heroic struggle of our forebears? The Jews of Europe stood accused of using the blood of Christian children to make matza. This blood libel was repeated on and off for centuries, leading directly to the death of hundreds, if not thousands of Jews. Can we then take the responsibility of preserving our customs lightly? I am not suggesting that we intrude on people's right to do as they wish at home. But surely we can observe our traditions in the public domain. Is it such a hardship not to eat bread for seven days? Matza is not the most recommended food. Hard to digest, it causes many people stomach irritation, bloating and constipation. So, as with most things in life, moderation is recommended. I like peanut butter on matza, but I know when to stop. Kneidlach in soup are terrific, but too many cause discomfort. I don't want to lay a guilt trip on anyone, but think how much our great-great grandparents fought to preserve our traditions. We are but mortal, and by passing on those traditions from generation to generation we gain a small measure of immortality. HENRY TOBIAS Ma'aleh Adumim Sir, - The decision to allow the sale of hametz on Pessah in non-public areas flies in the face of two basic issues. One is the definition of "non-public areas." Surely restaurants, grocery stores, etc. are public places, as their very existence depends on public trade? Secondly, the court's erosion of Jewish traditions in what seems to be a case of "secular coercion" challenges the Jewish nature of the Jewish state. When one cannot feel comfortable as a Jew in Israel, something is fundamentally and tragically wrong. HAIM M. LERNER Ganei Tikva Nowhere to go for the Seder Sir, - Why is this night different from all other nights? • because on this night we have nowhere to go. We are mentally ill, and because of the way we sometimes present ourselves we are neither "cool" nor "fashionable" to have around. • because on this night many are deemed "needy," except us. We have applied to all the food distribution centers in the same manner as everyone else with needs, only to be told that because we do not have a family, or children, we cannot go "on the list." We cannot possibly extend our disability benefit to include the amount of matza, let alone wine, that we need, and therefore on this night we will do without. • because on this night, especially, we need to belong. We need to be included and we need to be accepted. We at Ohr LeNefesh, a mental health rehabilitation organization which deals with people suffering from mental health issues in the framework of sheltered housing, are still looking for homes for some of our clients to go to on Seder night. If you feel that you can make this night just the same for them as it will be for you, please call us on (02) 622-3294. HINDA SCHRYBER Director, Ohr LeNefesh Jerusalem 'Birthright' for non-Jews Sir, - There's a lot of sense to Shmuley Boteach's article about bringing non-Jews to Israel in the same way that we bring Jews on birthright missions. The fact that Jesus was a Jew must never be denied and gives credibility to our connection to this place. There's no question that one of the reasons for most of the world's ignorance of what Israeli life is all about is the fact that most people do not have the opportunity to visit us and personally experience the magic that is Israel. Let us hope that with innovative ideas such as Rabbi Boteach's more people in the world will start to identify with us, whatever their religious beliefs ("A 'birthright' for non-Jews?" April 1). LEVI LEON Tel Aviv Sir, - As a Christian who has spent half a year volunteering in Jerusalem, I think a 'birthright' for non-Jews is an excellent idea. My first extended trip to Israel, with Israel Experience, was an eye-opening experience since it brought the Christian students away from the "footsteps of Jesus" and really made an effort to inform us about Israel from a historical, biblical and modern perspective. This initiative, four years old, has received significant funding from various philanthropists, and has developed a reputation for being a "Christian birthright." There are several programs for non-Jewish, specifically Christian, students through various Christian Zionist organizations in Jerusalem (Bridges for Peace and the ICEJ); however the Israel Experience program is by far the most academically intensive and comprehensive, specifically targeting college students. I believe it most adequately trains students to be productive future advocates for Israel. Generally the largest hindrance to any of these programs is lack of funding. If there were genuine opportunities for non-Jewish students to visit Israel on a meaningful tour with some sort of financial aid, compensation or underwriting, they would be flocking to Israel. From my personal experience, when I left Israel to work on a project in China, I wondered how my new job would allow me to be an "advocate" for Israel. I soon I discovered that I did not need to worry. Israel is really her own best advocate, and once one has been in Israel, one is compelled by an inner force to not be silent. ANGELINA LIN Boston Sir, - Founded in 2004 by Rev. Robert Stearns, the Israel Experience assembles the best and brightest Christian leaders from college and university campuses across America and brings them to Israel for an intense, three-week learning experience, cultivating in them a connection to the Jewish roots of their Christian faith and a special bond with the Land and State of Israel. Armed with a clear picture of the reality of the situation in Israel today, they are empowered to be voices "for Zion's sake" on their campuses, and friends of Israel for life. It is a wonderful - and very successful - program. With a comprehensive scholarship program, thousands more young Americans could participate in the Israel Experience annually. Christian students from all over the US could attend, students who will return home and join with the Jewish community to become leaders in the campaign to support Israel. With scholarship assistance, we could help produce the next generation of Christian Lovers and Supporters of Israel. Many of us in the Jewish community seek to grow the program and nurture the relationship between American Christians and Israel. We share Rabbi Boteach's vision of thousands of American Christians who, having experienced Israel, are empowered to support Israel on their campuses and intheir communities. RABBI JEFFREY A. KAHN Herzliya Sir, - "A 'birthright' for non-Jews?" was chilling. Yes, Israel is the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth; yes, Israel is the holiest place for Christians; yes, Christians have a very important stake in the existence of the Holy Land. All this notwithstanding, Christians are descendants of Esau, not of Jacob. The differentiation is one of faith and relationship. God's covenant is with the Jewish people. He left His Torah to their stewardship. Although Christians are absolutely welcome to visit and live in Israel, Israel is a Jewish state. No amount of advertising can make a truer image of Israel than the Magen David or menora, the ancient symbols of the Jewish people; whereas the cross is the symbol of the Christians. YOEL NITZARIM Skokie, Illinois Sir, - Shmuley Boteach proves you don't have to be brilliant to have a brilliant idea. A birthright program for gentile youth, sponsored mainly by gentiles, is no less than brilliant. AVIGDOR BONCHEK Jerusalem I simply had to write Sir, - Having completed the manuscript of my first book about Israel from a scriptural standpoint, my wife and I were privileged to fulfill a long-time dream and visit your beautiful land during Succot 2007. Since that time we have had a driving desire to tell all Jews everywhere not to believe everything they hear about gentile Christians. There are millions upon millions of us who love and support Israel. Unfortunately, our voices are often overpowered by the anti-Semitic media. We give our grateful thanks to every Jew who made us so welcome. TONY GIBSON Ireland Devastation is no deterrent Sir, - In "This is a drill" (Editorial, April 7) you ask: "But has Israel's deterrence so deteriorated that terrorists and/or their state benefactors - Syria and Iran - would even consider such a heinous assault (on a civil aeroplane)? Are they unmindful of the devastating consequences?" The answer is that our adversaries don't care. They are for nothing and against everything, and this is what drives them. Even were they to succeed, God forbid, in driving Israel into the sea, they would continue their activities. A look at the internecine power struggles in Gaza, Judea, Samaria and Lebanon, and the ones that would occur in Egypt and Jordan but for ruthless government repression - and in Iraq, etc. etc. - shows they care little for human life of any type. Indeed, the prospect of devastating consequences appears welcome to them, boosting their motivation and goading them on to greater "victories." Mere devastating consequences are no deterrent to these people. The only way to deal with such adversaries is to defeat them, utterly. MERVYN DOOBOV Jerusalem