December 10: El Al deserves better

I was taught, growing up in yeshiva, that the way of the Torah is making the right choices, and that every individual has the power of behira hofshit or freedom of choice.

letters to the editor 88 (photo credit: )
letters to the editor 88
(photo credit: )
El Al deserves better Sir, - I was not able to board the El Al flight on December 1 at the Hong Kong airport as I was informed that it would be arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport at 5:30 p.m., more than an hour into the Holy Sabbath. The head of security told me to go to a special desk set up for Sabbath observers. The station manager informed all 25 of us Sabbath observers that arrangements had been made by El Al to put us up at a hotel; and that glatt kosher meals would be provided, plus travel arrangements to and from the hotel. We were re-routed Saturday night to Israel, via Bangkok. I am not privy to any contract El Al may have regarding flying on Shabbat, but I was taught, growing up in yeshiva, that the way of the Torah is making the right choices, and that every individual has the power of behira hofshit or freedom of choice. El Al too is made up of individuals with the same power to make their own choices - and they respected the choice we 25 Sabbath observers made. They demonstrated this by providing for us over Shabbat. And we have to respect their choices, even though we may not agree. A mass boycott against the airline is not the answer, as it would only widen the secular-haredi rift. What we need to do as a community is teach our children the Torah way of life, which is to understand that we all have a God-given right and privilege to choose right from wrong, and that the Torah's ways are darchei shalom, ways of peace. We had a wonderful Shabbat in Hong Kong, and I couldn't help but think it sure beat - God forbid - a hijacking, so let's count our blessings! ("Haredi community: El Al is 'cursed,'" December 5; and "Bad for Jews," Letter, December 8)). M. GRUNBERG New York Women first Sir, - A simple solution to the segregated bus dilemma, one that will soothe the ultra-modest while not relegating females to second-class status, reminiscent of the bad old days in the US south: Keep segregating the buses, but designate the front section for women and the rear for men ("11 new, sex-segregrated lines added by Egged in six months," December 1; and "Backward move," Letters, December 5). NORMAN LOBERANT Nahariya The long road... Sir, - That "Olmert aims to cut road deaths to 300 by 2015" (December 1) is very good news, but budgets need to be used much more effectively. An intensive and expensive radio campaign is in progress to cut accidents on pedestrian crossings. Yet little attention is paid to these important points: • The white lines of pedestrian crossings are barely visible because the paint used by local authorities is not the one specified, which has a long life but is three times as expensive. Crossings are repainted in many places; two or three weeks later, the lines have faded. • Rules covering the speed with which it is permitted to cross a pedestrian crossing are not stressed. The common practice of accelerating when approaching a crossing, if no pedestrians are visible, is very dangerous, and prohibited. • Vegetation, parked cars and other obstacles at crossings which block the driver's view are ignored by the police and local authorities. • The lighting of pedestrian crossings is generally very poor, and there is no standard signposting of crossings. • The police take little interest in patrols by school children and pensioners. Some drivers do not stop at crossings, and no action is taken against them. • Pedestrians are not advised, when venturing out at night, to dress in a way that makes them visible to motorists. Illuminated vests or other items would help a lot. DAVID GOSHEN Kiryat Ono road safety Sir, - Prof. Ian Johnston, a road safety expert from Australia, pointed out at the recent Or Yarok conference that "politicians don't need to know how to do it, but they need to tell their chief executives what must be done." We must hope that current Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz has briefed his new head of the National Road Safety Authority well; the new appointee's budget has been vastly increased over his predecessors', and he has no background in the subject. The death and serious injury toll of the last week has devastated 32 families. Perhaps all concerned should do a stint at Beit Levenstein, where my neighbor is undergoing rehab following a stroke. She is heartbroken at the numbers of road crash victims and their families for whom, as she put it, "Life has stopped." LEVI LEON Netanya Crossing the line Sir, - Sarah Honig's "Been betrayed before" (UpFront, December 1) crossed the line that separates legitimate criticism from incitement. Instead of supporting her allegation that Peace Now's report on settlement construction on private Palestinian land is "brazenly fraudulent," Honig accuses Peace Now of producing a "snitching extravaganza," of betrayal, and of "informing" on their co-nationals. She doesn't stop there, however. She equates them with those who were "callous to the plight of existentially vulnerable Jews" on the eve of the Holocaust. It was rhetoric like this that preceded the assassination of an Israeli prime minister 11 years ago. Israeli opinion leaders across the political spectrum, as well as the media, agreed at the time to tone down this rhetoric, to avoid inflammatory allusions to the Holocaust or accusations of treason when discussing political differences. Sarah Honig chose to violate these principles of civil discourse. DEBRA DeLEE CEO, Americans for Peace Now Washington The center can hold Sir, - Re "Stopping Safdie could be PR, not planning" (November 26): Why must housing be built on a green hillside full of archeological remains and far from central infrastructure, if not to fill the pockets of builders and contractors and their clients, our public officials? Jerusalem's center has transport, jobs, facilities and space. New housing should be on public transportation lines. Many places sit as monuments to the past, or are impeded by antiquated housing and ownership laws. Examples include the virtually unused ancient central bus station behind the facade of stores running from the corner of Rehov Strauss along Jaffa Road. On the eastern side of Mount Scopus there is an inviting open space that could be filled with towers, shops, offices and factories. A train line could connect it to the center. On King George Street an old Histadrut building decays. The Safdie area is on an important archeological site. When I was digging with the Antiquities Authority in the 90s, we found tons of pre-temple times remains, including possible cult objects. PINCHAS RICHARD WIMBERLY Jerusalem Wrong thinking on right of return Sir, - I wholeheartedly agreed with Barbara Cook's "Look who's subverting the Torah for political purposes" (November 26). My entire nuclear family converted to Judaism about seven years ago in a Reform synagogue. It required many years of study and introspection before we had the privilege of making our commitment to Judaism public. We live our lives in line with our Jewish identity. Our children have visited Israel multiple times; our eldest son is contemplating service in the IDF. We support Israel financially, especially in times of pressing need. We attend synagogue; support Jewish interests politically and otherwise. Our sons are deeply involved in Jewish organizations at their university. We chose Judaism, in part, because with it comes a sense of belonging to a family. Yet Chief Rabbi Amar's proposal is one of exclusion, not inclusion. Is this the real message of Judaism Israel wishes to send to its people around the world? At a time when it seems that Israel needs all the support it can get from all Jews, it is sad to think that such a divisive policy would even be considered. The almighty accepts those who identify themselves behaviorally, emotionally and spiritually as Jews. Israel should do no less. G. THOMAS MANZIONE Boulder, Colorado