December 2: In memoriam

I remember Rebbetzin Rivka going out alone into the open market to buy vegetables, and thought: What courage, faith and fortitude.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In memoriam Sir, - I travel abroad for work frequently and was a guest of the Holtzbergs, of blessed memory, in Mumbai. I was thrilled to find my way to them, just before Purim. Located in the old Jewish community of Mumbai, near synagogues built by Indian Jews over the past century, they lived and served in a difficult environment, surrounded by poverty, squalor and, nearby, a huge Muslim neighborhood with dozens of mosques. It was a little scary for me, but I remember Rebbetzin Rivka going out alone into the open market to buy vegetables, and thought: What courage, faith and fortitude they have to be welcoming strangers, fellow Jews from abroad and from across the street. There are so many poor Indian Jews still in Mumbai; who would take notice, other than holy Jews like Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg? May their son, Moshe, a survivor, grow up strong to carry on his father's faith and love of God and the people of Israel ("Remembering the Holtzbergs," Benjamin Holtzman, December 1). DORON BEN AVRAHAM Elad Going gracefully Sir, - Our Israeli officials should take a lesson from India ("Indian security chief quits over alleged lapses," December 1). Our politicians are found guilty of crimes, and just keep on working. REBECCA RAAB Ma'aleh Adumim Leave it to the pros Sir, - For over 30 years I served as a forensic anthropologist in the US and went to many crime scenes where bodies or human remains were recovered. The first thing we learned was to be careful about what is said to the media about identification of remains, causes and time of death, etc. These are almost always difficult to determine and require careful analysis in a scientific laboratory by specialists in a number of fields. "Indian commandos may have killed some Chabad hostages, ZAKA head tells 'Post'" (December 1) quoted extensively from Haim Weingarten of ZAKA, who has none of the appropriate qualifications to say whether any of the people were killed by the commandos or the terrorists without having first having examined the bullets that will be recovered from the bodies. He also lacks the qualifications to determine the cause or time of death, although he is quoted as saying "some of the hostages were killed on Wednesday, some on Thursday, and some on Friday morning"; also that the hostages may have been killed by gunshot wounds, shrapnel, or both. How did he determine that? That will be determined only after the bodies are taken to an institution such as Abu Kabir, where the appropriate equipment and professionals are located. In the final analysis, we may learn that Mr. Weingarten was correct about some of the things he said; but, more likely, we will learn that his assessments were totally inaccurate. In the interim we have accused the Indian government and military of incompetence and demonstrated to the world that we in Israel have no idea of what we are doing in the analysis of forensic materials. We have also possibly unnecessarily upset the victims' relatives by giving them a false impression of when and how their loved ones lost their lives. Members of ZAKA may be very good at collecting remains at terrorism sites, but they lack the expertise to comment on them. Such comments should be presented to the media only after careful analysis by qualified individuals. ROBERT SUNDICK Jerusalem Rethink the fight Sir, - David Altman's "Terrorism has truly become war, and we need to rethink how we fight it" (November 28) echoed the concerns of many who believe, like him, that the time has come for decision-makers and strategic analysts to recognize that "the accepted approach to terrorism has become anachronistic and mistaken." RACHEL BIRATI Melbourne Security for Chabad Sir, - There are at least two readily available sources for providing security to Chabad houses in the Far East, if Israel feels it cannot afford to pay ("Israel to Chabad: Relocate to secured buildings," December 1). Yeshiva students reluctant to join the IDF because of its non-religious environment could volunteer for the Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg Defense Unit, in which they would live in a completely compatible environment while doing a great mitzva. Also, the many recently released IDF soldiers who stay at Chabad houses could volunteer for security duty there in gratitude to their hosts. CAROL CLAPSADDLE Jerusalem Groveling, surely... Sir, - Re "Creating a chance for something new" (Letters, December 1): Rabbi David Rosen participated in King Abdullah's Saudi Arabia interfaith conference in his capacity as chairman of the International Jewish Commission on Interdenominational Affairs. However David Harris, the chief executive of his organization, the American Jewish Committee, together with Malcolm Hoenlein of the Presidents Conference, Abe Foxman of the ADL, and Dan Mariaschin of B'nai B'rith were all explicitly blackballed by the Saudi Arabians as being "too political." This message was conveyed by the US Saudi Embassy to the World Jewish Congress, which, despite the exclusion of their colleagues, accepted the Saudi invitation and in addition took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times praising King Abdullah. Rabbi Rosen quotes the Talmud about desecrating the Divine Name. I would respectfully submit that it is demeaning for Jewish participants attending an interfaith conference headed by one of the most repressive regimes in the world to fail to raise their voices in protest against obscene state-sponsored anti-Semitism being promoted in Saudi Arabia to this day. To my mind, the Talmud would surely regard such groveling behavior by Jews as a desecration of the Divine Name. ISI LEIBLER Jerusalem ...yes, indeed! Sir, - Two op-eds, "Barack and Bibi won't mix" by Jeff Barak and "Yes, Netanyahu can work with Obama" by Yuli Edelstein (both December 1) made me feel sick. How condescending that the criteria for Israeli premier appears to be who can best sucker up to the "goyim" (no insult intended). Our criteria should be who can deal effectively with the menace of Hamas and Iran; build proper schools; preserve our environment and reform our electoral system. These pieces were also condescending toward the Palestinians, who are said to need just a slightly better peace plan, or to develop their economy, before they can even think realistically about peace. Yet just as Israel was founded immediately upon the decision of the UN to establish it, so the Palestinians need only finally accept Israel as a Jewish state and concentrate on building their own state, rather than destroying ours. BARRY LYNN Efrat