Strategic defense Sir, - The Defense Ministry is weighing the purchase of a Phalanx B system to intercept Kassam missiles in flight ("Israel considering rapid-fire cannon to protect strategic installations from Kassams," December 21). Because of technical limitations, the Phalanx is considered useful for protecting strategic targets such the Ashkelon power plant or Zikim air force base. With all due respect to the wise men of the Defense Ministry, the children of the western Negev communities are of far greater strategic value. They are the future. They are what makes everything else worth fighting for. Let's give the kids these systems first; the power plant and the air force base can wait. JOSH MARK Jerusalem Eyes have it Sir, - The debate in the government between those who want to accept the temporary cease-fire of Hamas and those who reject the offer ("Ministers split over Hamas offer of 'hudna,'" December 20) is a debate between those who have a tendency to see that which does not exist and do not see that which does exist, and those who see what exists but do not see that which does not exist. What exists: Hamas's declared aim to destroy Israel and its continuous buildup of military material. What does not exist: Visible evidence of Hamas's desire to stop killing Israelis, the halt to daily Kassam rocket attacks, the return of Gilad Schalit. One can only hope that in this debate the eyes have it. AVIGDOR BONCHEK Jerusalem The big picture Sir, - Michael Felsen's "We're behind Ehud Olmert" (December 19) urging Israel to tell the truth about not having been a godsend to the Palestinians is all well and good, but it lacks context. Has the IDF been deployed to Judea and Samaria? Yes, but the question is why. Like so many of the other annoyances imposed on the Palestinians, it was necessary to prevent terrorism and to protect lives in Israel, Jewish and Arab. Israel's protective strategies pale in comparison to the horrors undertaken by terrorist Palestinians: suicide bombers, explosive devices in roads, firing rockets at civilian centers and the inculcation of blind hatred through media and education systems. When the Palestinians own up to the errors of their ways, then let Mr. Felsen talk about Israel's modest shortcomings. ALAN B. KATZ Melville, NY Where's the love? Sir, - I couldn't agree more with your assessment of Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah ("Sabbah's hypocrisy," December 23), who is once again shooting off his mouth and spewing venom at the Jews. What else is new? When he first came on the scene some 20 years ago, he hated Jews and the Jewish state, and he still feels the same way about us today. I don't believe he is "well-meaning," as you stated. As a good Christian he is admonished by his religion to "love thy neighbor," so where is this love? While he has advanced a few rungs in his job, he hasn't changed a bit. So who needs him? Can't the Catholic Church be persuaded to replace him with someone a bit more even-handed? LEONARD ZURAKOV Netanya Play ball Sir, - In the spirit of Christmas reconciliation I would like to offer Sabbah a deal. Israel will give up its Jewish character if another sovereign entity, Vatican City, will give up its exclusive Catholic religious character and become the Capital of all Abrahamic faiths. Let's start with the easiest groups: the Orthodox churches and Protestants. Then, of course, equal rights for Jews (synagogue, rotating presidency, etc.) as well as Muslims, Druse, Bahai and Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists and any other genuine faith. OK Mr. Sabbah, the ball is in your court. ANTHONY LUDER Rosh Pina Dormant doorposts Sir, - Re "Army rabbi puts up mezuza in off-limits Hebron casbah," December 21: I walked through the Hebron casbah in the 1970s and I saw with my own eyes the letter "shin" carved into the stone doorposts of almost every house. This "casbah" was the Jewish quarter of Hebron until the 1929 Arab pogroms laid waste to the Jewish community. The casbah remained deserted long into the 80s, as the Arab families of Hebron feared entering the homes of the Jewish neighbors they had slaughtered, believing them to be occupied by the spirits of their victims. Not to worry, the State of Israel soon taught these criminals that retribution was not on the agenda. To the contrary, Jews would be punished for being Jews - for reaffixing a mezuza on that very spot. And, what is worse, Jews would be despised by the Israeli establishment for repopulating Hebron. SHIRA TWERSKY-CASSEL Jerusalem Grave situation Sir, - Last week my sister visited our parents' graves in Kiryat Shaul near Tel Aviv. She discovered that the metal fence that decorated our father's grave was no more. The cemetery official advised her not to replace the fence, as it would disappear again. Desecrating graves in pursuit of cash is a level I did not think anyone would stoop to in Israel. Is there nothing the government can do to put an end to this offense? ESTHER HORNE London Proud optimism Sir, - We should all support the entertainers and artists threatening to boycott the 60th anniversary of Israel celebrations ("Entertainers protest planned cut to arts budget," December 19). While our soldiers are still missing and people are still going hungry, we should not be planning extravagant events. The money that will be wasted on such brief triviality could be put to better use; improving access to arts and culture is one such use. Let's not pretend that internal problems of crime and violence, inequality amongst the different sectors of society, the growing gap between rich and poor and lack of leadership do not give us cause for concern. So on the 60th Independence Day, are we going to celebrate? Yes, we have survived and we still love our country. Let us demonstrate the incredible optimism which has, until now, pulled us through. Let's organize neighborhood parties in which the community can be involved. Let the celebrations come to the people and not the opposite. We don't need highly paid performers to entertain us; we have enough local talent who can make it happen. Let the world see the Israeli people as we really should be, full of spirit and hope. ZELDA HARRIS Tel Aviv CORRECTION "Visiting Argentinean prosecutor urges pressure on Iran to give up AMIA bombing planners" (December 19) erroneously stated that Alberto Nisman secured Interpol backing for the arrests of several leaders in Teheran, "including former president Hashemi Rafsanjani," for ordering the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community offices in Buenos Aires. Interpol has issued six Red Notices in connection with the 1994 bombing of the AMIA building for the following individuals: Ahmad Reza Asghari, Ali Fallahijan, Imad Fayez Moughnieh, Mohsen Rabbani, Mohsen Rezai and Ahmad Vahidi. No Red Notice has been issued for Rafsanjani.