December 13: No second chances

Carmel forest fires debacle shows unpreparedness of Israel; suggests Jewish reserve force trained and administered in the Diaspora.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Different concerns
Sir, – As a first-generation American Jew whose families emigrated in the last century from the most virulently Jew-hating areas of Russia and Poland, how can I explain to my friends the disgusting demand of Israeli rabbis to ban the rental of properties to non-Jews (“Let the rabbis go,” Editorial, December 10)? The United States supports the existence of Israel at least partly for its concern for personal freedom and equality. How shall I argue that this discrimination is not the equivalent of that promoted by the Nazis or today’s Islamic world? Shame on them! These rabbis do not represent my views or those of free and modern Jews around the world. In fact, their intolerant demands are an affront to God and can be forgiven only by God.
Surprise, Arizona
Sir, – The first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, was told on appointment that he was the titular head of the country and was banned from engaging in anything outside his official duties.
Unfortunately, the current president thinks he is still the prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, etc., making statements beyond his position.
As this is a Jewish state, there must be guidelines set, and there are no better qualified people than rabbis, whose knowledge has been honed over the millennia. It has been traditional Judaism that has enabled the Jewish people to survive.
If the president can engage in politics outside his titular role without a hue and cry from the citizens, then what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and the voice of concerned rabbis should not be considered anything different.
Other way around
Sir, – Your article “Turkish FM coy on reports Israel offering $100,000 for each of the ‘Marmara’ dead’” (December 10) raises the possibility that Israel will pay compensation to the families of the nine Turks who were killed on the Mavi Marmara.
What absurdity! Our men were acting in self-defense and preventing the endangerment of Israel’s security. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has the right idea when he says “the Turks should apologize to Israel.”
They turned it down
Sir, – Your December 10 report “Officials bicker about Hamas MPs who have made their de facto HQ at east J’lem Red Cross office”) says that “Like all east Jerusalem Arabs, [the MPs] held blue ID cards, which gave them Israeli residency but not citizenship.”
A reader could easily understand that the State of Israel denied citizenship to east Jerusalem Arabs, whereas in fact such citizenship was offered, only to be declined by the great majority.
True colors
Sir, – Tzipi Livni is showing her true colors (“Livni calls for PM to quit after comptroller points to failed firefighting services,” December 9) If I am right, Israel’s firefighting services have been around since the early days of the state. How, then, can their underfunding be the fault of the present government? What did the Kadima-led government do for the firefighting services? Instead of investing in them, it spent millions of shekels on the disastrous withdrawal from Gaza, which begat the First Gaza War. How much did that squander in lives and money?
Sir, – It’s simple to lay the blame on the prime minister for the abysmal state of Israel’s preparedness in fighting forest fires. In fact, the blame should land squarely at the feet of each and every one of our prime ministers since the state’s inception.
It’s no secret that Tzipi Livni would have saved the day had she been in the PM’s shoes – simply because she would have been engaged in conducting her own fire sale of the State of Israel.
Shame on Livni, the opportunist.
Beit Shemesh
No second chances
Sir, – Did those who perished in the Carmel forest fires die because of negligence? Most resoundingly yes. However, this debacle is only a sign of what’s to come.
A massive earthquake is overdue here. Some 900,000 buildings – a full 20 percent of all construction – were not built according to earthquake- resistant standards.
I have lived through several California quakes. Does Israel’s general population know that from the moment of the first tremor, one has only 14 seconds to exit such buildings? Shall we wait until this tragedy happens or will we realize that there are no second chances?
A man, a plan
Sir, – In light of the tragic fires in the North, it is important to understand that while Israel lacks what might be called “strategic depth,” Jewish people in the Diaspora can provide that depth and constitute a valuable resource in times of danger.
What I am suggesting is a Jewish reserve force for public service that could be trained and administered in the Diaspora. The recent fires provide a good example. A reserve force of volunteer firefighters in New York, let’s say, could have periodic training for emergencies by American or Israeli experts. Its members could even gain experience by being utilized to help out at home. They would be a complete unit, ready to transfer to Israel and go to work upon activation.
Other units could be trained to support hospital personnel as orderlies and in supplemental patient care, as emergency responders, to replant forests and to assist in agriculture and infrastructure repair. They would understand that upon deployment they’d be working in difficult conditions with limited personal comfort. They might even be expected to pay for their own transportation.
You might ask whether comfortable American Jews would be willing to commit to such an obligation.
Speaking for myself and, I am sure, for many others, it would be an honor and a privilege.
New York
Sir, – The column “The rise and fall of the Gaza blockade” by Frimet Roth (Comment & Features, December 8) incorrectly stated that United Nations Under Secretary- General for Political Affairs B.
Lynn Pascoe did not refer to Gilad Schalit in the briefing he gave to the Security Council at the end of November.
In fact, a whole paragraph – number 24 – of the briefing was dedicated to this issue and reads as follows: “11 November marked 1,600 days since the capture of Israeli Staff Sergeant Gilad Schalit, and we reiterate our call for his immediate release. Humanitarian access to him should be granted without conditions. There has been no apparent progress on efforts to complete a prisoner exchange for some of the 9,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.”
Pascoe’s briefing reflected the consistent call of the United Nations for the release of Gilad Schalit and for providing him with basic human rights, most of all access. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, have repeatedly expressed this position, including in visits to Gaza and in several meetings with the Schalit family. We have also provided assistance in the effort to secure the soldier’s long-overdue release.
We hope these calls will become a reality soon.
Chief Public Information Officer Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO)