December 22: Jewish Christmas

Perhaps the recent campaign to lure Israelis home by focusing on assimilation was not so far off the mark.

Jewish Christmas Sir, – Reading “In tough times, people rely on the Jewish community for help” (December 20) reminded me of a temporary sojourn I had in upstate New York in the early 1980s. I was horrified at the way Hanukka was celebrated there. Jews who had hardly heard of Shavuot and paid lip service to our other major festivals celebrated it as if it were some kind of Jewish Christmas.
Your correspondent writes that needy Jews start worrying about paying for Hanukka in August. Perhaps the recent campaign by the Ministry of Absorption to lure Israelis back to Israel by focusing on the dangers of assimilation was not so far off the mark.
Whose fallacies? Sir, – James Adler (“Israel’s problem isn’t the ‘New York Times’ or Thomas Friedman. It’s transparent fallacies,” Comment & Features, December 20) asserts that the 1947 UN Partition Plan “called for... the eviction of three-quarters of the people from the land they had lived on for centuries.” The plan said nothing of the kind, as anyone who reads it can verify instantly.
Adler also claims that the Jewish community in Palestine “needed to ‘cleanse’ the area [of Arabs] in order to create a Jewish majority,” and that Jewish leaders “said as much.” What David Ben-Gurion said was: “We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their place. All our aspiration is built on the assumption – proven throughout all our activity in the Land [of Israel] – that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs.”
Sir, – The whole idea of the 1947 partition plan was to give each group an area that corresponded to the preponderance of its population. No massive population transfers were contemplated. But the Arabs nixed partition because they could not abide a sovereign Jewish presence and were clear and not ambivalent about it.
Original Sin for the Arabs was abject rejection and negation. They cannot put the genie back in the bottle – nor have they tried. To this day, there is no willingness to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish presence here.
Sir, – James Adler’s op-ed is a simple case of selecting facts and ignoring others to reach false conclusions. For instance, while it is true that the Saudi Peace Initiative has been on the table for a decade, it requires that Israel not only dismantle all Jewish cities and towns over the Green Line, but also accept Palestinian refugees in Israel proper.
Moreover, if, as Adler writes, “time moves on,” then certainly 40 and more years of Jewish habitation of land within the West Bank is enough to establish sovereignty.
Finally, Adler writes that “there was no need to plant civilian communities” in the West Bank. Yet the Allon plan (to which we now refer as “settlement blocks”) was created to provide security because where there are no Jewish towns (as in Gaza), there are missiles.
One might argue further, but the main points have been made.
Sir, – James Adler lays all the blame for the current Israeli- Palestinian conflict at the feet of those Israelis who dare settle in Judea and Samaria.
He correctly points out that the pre-independence migration of Jews to the Land of Israel was a legitimate movement, but what he conveniently omits is that the Arab Higher Committee headed by Haj Amin el-Husseini never recognized the Jewish claim to the land, which resulted in the 1948 war.
Adler also doesn’t explain why Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas declined the generous peace offers made by former prime ministers Barak and Olmert.
It is a problem Sir, – Alan Dershowitz is undoubtedly the most fervent advocate for Israel in America today. He defends Israel boldly and publicly, and has the best credentials for doing so. But as a true friend of Israel, he should also be willing to see the problems that exist here and rally behind those who seek to remedy them.
It was thus disheartening to see in “Israel is a vibrant democracy” (Observations, December 16) his dismissal of religious coercion in Israel as if it were not a serious problem.
For example, Israel is the only country in the free world in which religious authorities have been granted exclusive responsibility over certain areas of life. These authorities represent only one branch of religious Judaism. Other branches are denied legitimacy and both governmental recognition and aid.
True, there is no law preventing the Masorti Movement or other non-Orthodox movements from establishing synagogues and worshipping freely (although there have been plenty of attempts at making that difficult). But whereas official Orthodox synagogues are built and financed by public tax money, Masorti synagogues are not, and whereas official Orthodox rabbis are employed and paid by the state, ours are not. Furthermore, institutions such as the Masorti Movement’s Schechter Rabbinical School receive no governmental aid while Orthodox yeshivot do, and their students do not receive the aid that yeshiva students do.
Worse are the problems faced by couples who wish to be married here and have no choice but to turn to the Orthodox rabbinate if their marriage is to be recognized legally. The problems of divorce, resulting in hundreds of agunot (women who are refused religious divorces by their spouses), are a national scandal.
As a person who appreciates and stands for the highest democratic values and for freedom of conscience and civil rights, Dershowitz should be advocating for those rights in Israel, and not dismissing the problem with a quip as if it were of little consequence.
REUVEN HAMMER Jerusalem The writer is a Masorti Movement rabbi and Jerusalem Post columnist
In plain sight Sir, – As a totally blind person, I welcomed the headline for Judy Siegel’s piece “Haredim no longer hide their disabled children” (December 13). However, two statements by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar cry out for analysis.
Sa’ar said: “Every child is a whole world and has the right to take advantage of his potential with what God gave him.”
People with disabilities do indeed have the right to take advantage of their potential. The problem is that society equates our disability with inability. How else can we explain the horrendous 52 percent unemployment rate among Israelis with disabilities?
The minister went on to say that “society is judged according to the way it treats its weakest links.” If that is the case, the verdict is surely “guilty,” for the Ministry of Education often fails to provide mobility-impaired children with barrier-free access to their schools, or blind children with timely access to textbooks in Braille so they may compete on an equal footing with their non-disabled peers.
When they look for employment, people with disabilities are often channeled into a narrow set of stereotyped occupations deemed “suitable for the disabled” rather than jobs that reflect their true individual interests and full range of skills.
And what of that tired, old “weakest links” label the minister attaches to people with disabilities? The fact is, special needs and accommodations to them are not unique to people with disabilities, and all of us, able bodied and disabled alike, possess both strengths and weaknesses.
AVRAHAM (RAMI) RABBY Tel Aviv The writer is a retired US diplomat