August 24 UpFront: Einstein's deity

Your reviewer of Walter Isaacson's Einstein, His Life and Universe would do well to show some respect to the great physicist, by sticking, as he did, to the facts.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Twisting the truth Sir, - Seth Frantzman unfortunately limited his correct defensive response to anti-Zionist fabrications and purposeful misrepresentations by Ilan Pappe, et al. to the 1948 war only ("Ethnic cleansing in Palestine?" August 17). He more properly should have gone over to the offensive and pointed out that ethnic cleansing was a prime Arab instrument used against Jews for decades. Examples of this include Tel Hai, wiped out in March 1920, its Jews killed and dispersed. In April 1920, Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter civilians were attacked. In May 1921, an attempt was made to depopulate Jaffa and Petah Tikva of its Jews, and Kfar Saba was set afire. In 1929, 133 Jews were killed within two weeks and Hebron was ethnically cleansed of its centuries-old Jewish population, as were Jenin, Shechem (Nablus), Tulkarm, Gaza, Hulda, Kfar Uriya, Ramat Rahel and a dozen other communities. In April, during just the first month of the 1936-1939 riots, over 7,000 Jews became refugees from their homes in Tel Aviv's southern neighborhoods. The above list is incomplete but indicates the perversity of Arab propaganda and its Jewish sympathizers. Not only do they invent lies, they twist the truth to hide the deeds they themselves promoted. YISRAEL MEDAD Shiloh Sir, - The photo accompanying Seth Frantzman's op-ed was captioned "a refugee camp in Bethlehem." Shown were well-dressed, well-fed, smiling children, electric and telephone connections, solar heaters, attractive apartments, well-hung laundry, greenery and a beautiful hi-rise mosque. A careful look at this picture revealed no torn tents, muddy ground, emaciated figures or suffering men, women and children. Am I remiss in understanding that a pleasant residential neighborhood is considered a camp of squalor and misery? ESTER ZEITLIN Jerusalem Brilliant and true Sir, - I thought David J. Forman's "Between resilience and denial" (August 17) was brilliant, and so true. I have often thought how strange our reactions, as Israelis, are, both to life-threatening events and individual news items. We are either very capable of coping with unpleasant things, or completely stupid. What worries me: Is this not rather reminiscent of the attitude taken by many European Jews before the Holocaust, and will we again leave it too late to take matters seriously and prepare properly in face of the worst? SONJA ILLOUZ Moshav Shoresh Save us from 'the best minds' Sir, - Barbara Sofer's reference to "the best minds in the country" was worrying. Too long have "the best minds in the country" been advising our leaders - and we've had rockets in return for vacating Gaza, a war in return for fleeing Lebanon, and now a willingness to make landslide concessions for peace to a Palestinian government seeking to cut a deal with Hamas. From the "best minds" advising Israel's leaders we now have, to boot, three major parties, two of which, Kadima and Labor, are virtually indistinguishable; the third, Likud, feels it "popular" to move to the left in an absurd attempt to try and grab a few more votes. "Best minds" look at things simply, see things clearly, learn from history, have common sense and can apply it. Winston Churchill, for example ("We're off track," August 17). I. KEMP Nahariya Standing up for Torah with worldly knowledge Sir, - In "Feldman's bad faith" (August 10) Jonathan Rosenblum used the disappointing story of Noah Feldman to swipe at the view that blending religious studies with worldly knowledge and wisdom is a worthy goal. Yet I'm sure Rosenblum does not appreciate it when the despicable behavior of several "distinguished Torah scholars" is used as grounds for criticizing the entire haredi world. Though Rosenblum attributes the view of "Be a Jew at home and a man abroad" to Moses Mendelssohn, it was Judah Leib Gordon, one of the maskilim and a father of the revival of the modern Hebrew language, who wrote, a century later: "Be a Jew in your home and a man in the street." Gordon was educated according to the method of the Vilna Gaon and was thoroughly versed in rabbinic literature. In fact most of the maskilim had a traditional yeshiva education - something, it seems, that did not protect them from "heretical" thoughts. But it was convenient for Rosenblum to attribute this view to Moses Mendelssohn, then jump from the philosophy of the Enlightenment to what befell Moses Mendelssohn's children, thus implicating all those who follow the path of Torah and secular knowledge. Rosenblum, a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School - presumably before he "saw the light" - writes condescendingly, as if the haredi way, in which Jews cut themselves off from the world around them, is the only way to ensure the survival of Judaism. But what kind of Judaism would survive? Should Jews have remained in the ghettos of Europe, and not left, as so many rabbis advised? Should they not have emigrated to that tainted land, America? Or should they have stayed behind in Europe and not gone to Palestine, as Divinely-inspired rabbinic wisdom dictated? What future would they have had then? Granted, perhaps today haredim can survive in the ghettos of Lakewood, New Jersey, Kiryas Yoel, New York, or Golders Green, London, by continuing their cloistered existence and allowing the gentiles to run the hospitals, build bridges and roads, discover cures to diseases, and create art, music and beautiful architecture to uplift the spirit. But in the modern State of Israel, where the population is overrun by the high haredi birthrate, which Rosenblum seems so smugly to present as a sign of victory, who then will run the electric companies, improve methods to desalinate the water, harvest energy from the sun and find solutions for pollination as the bees disappear? Instead of looking down on schools like Maimonides, Rosenblum should worry about the haredi schools in Israel that are reducing even the amount of worldly knowledge their students are being taught, raising a future generation that will be capable only of sitting on a bench to learn Torah and impregnating their overly burdened wives. I'm proud to be a graduate of the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School, a school quite similar in philosophy to the Maimonides school, and the yeshiva can be proud of me, too: I have a PhD in mathematics and an MA in Jewish studies. I teach computer networking at the Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem, write about rabbinic literature and study Torah every day. I'm married to another proud graduate of my school who has a PhD in physics, is a patent agent and studies Torah every day. We even have some kids. I dare say Maimonides himself would have been pleased. DEBBY KOREN Jerusalem Einstein's deity Sir, - Your reviewer of Walter Isaacson's Einstein, His Life and Universe would do well to show some respect to the great physicist, by sticking, as he did, to the facts. Einstein's views on the Almighty are well known. Indeed he writes in his illuminating book The World As I See It that the exquisite order of the universe cannot be the result of random happenings, but can only be ascribed to the actions of God, its creator ("Yoda of the universe," Books, August 10). AMNON NEEDHAM Zichron Ya'acov Meir Ronnen responds: Einstein made oblique references to "Der Alte," but never believed in a deterministic God; and certainly not in a personal one. Pet peeves Sir, - Thank you, Barry Nester, for correcting the mistaken spelling of "blond" and "blonde" ("Lighten up," August 17). My pet peeves from other mix-ups: then for than, women for woman, loathe for loath, phenomena for phenomenon, criteria for criterion. NOMI KALISCH Givat Ze'ev