December 25: Xmas in Israel

Ignoring Christmas doesn't just separate us from "the rest of the world," it separates us from many of our own citizens.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Xmas in Israel Sir, - I too was happy to escape the enormous Xmas hype in the US ("Vive la difference," Letters, December 23). However, Christianity isn't an "alien culture." It also grew up here (heard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Nazareth, Bethlehem?). Not all Israelis are Jewish, the Bahai are centered on Haifa and - gasp - Christians really do live here. Ignoring Christmas doesn't just separate us from "the rest of the world," it separates us from many of our own citizens. David NORMAN Rehovot 35, 60, 100 - and 95 Sir, - Should your tourism ministry ever give awards to persons bringing visitors to Israel, my nominee would be the Rev. Ellen Blackwell, a biblical scholar and for many decades pastor of two Assemblies of God churches, Way of Faith in Arlington, Va., and Mount Zion Fellowship near Charles Town, W. Va. Rev. Blackwell's congregants affectionately address her as "Pastor." I traveled with Pastor Blackwell on my first trip to Israel three decades ago. I asked her how many times she had led visitors to the land. She said "About 35." Twenty years ago, when our entire family visited Israel with Pastor Blackwell, I again asked her that question. "About 60," she replied. Earlier this year, she told me, "I stopped counting after 100." Pastor Blackwell is departing for Israel again in late December, has two trips scheduled for the spring of 2009, and is thinking of a July 2009 visit. She has just celebrated her 95th birthday. EUGENE SCHEEL Waterford, Virginia Haredim make good 'secular' students Sir, - Haredim want secular higher education and are good at it. They do lack basic math and English skills, as reported by Matthew Wagner in "Poll: Haredim want to go to college" (December 22), but given the chance - and their extensive learning experience in yeshivot - they are able to fill these gaps in no time at all. We know this from their outstandingly successful experience in Math and English courses especially devised for them at the Open University. Fifty-two male haredi students completed a course designed to bring them up to the first level of the existing English courses at the Open University. We prepared a series of tailor-made placement and evaluation tools as well as culturally appropriate instructional materials. Many of these students had never been exposed to some aspects of the secular world, and so we excluded topics and visual representations that might be considered inappropriate. We also endeavored to create an atmosphere comfortable and conducive to learning by providing a modern Orthodox male teacher familiar with the haredi community. The program exceeded all expectations and the students achieved a high level of English in an amazingly short time. What we estimate would normally take 45 weeks of study - bridging the gap from a non-existent English language proficiency level to our existing Beginners level - the haredi students managed to achieve in 13 weeks. ESTHER KLEIN-WOHL Head of English Department Open University of Israel Ra'anana Jihad is bred... Sir, - Why give space to such blinkered writing as Danielle Gilbert's "Tolerance is not dangerous" (December 23)? Though she wrote that "multiculturalism has its flaws," she identified nothing negative in it at all. Where has she been for the past seven years? She didn't define what she meant by "nuanced toleration," except more of the same policy under which jihadi doctrines have thrived in the UK and Europe. Reasoned rebuttals are one thing; this piece rarely rose above the level of simple rejection. CHARLES SOPER London the cradle Sir, - How fitting that Ms. Gilbert hails from the London School of Economics, an institution notorious for its intolerance of Jews and Zionists. Her attempt to prove that poor Muslims are the victims is as jaded as it is simply unbelieved by most of the world after 9/11, Madrid, London, Darfur, Bali and Mumbai. Islamist terror is a terrible aberration, but it was nurtured in the cradle of mainstream Islam. Its leaders are far from the poor mistreated wretches Ms. Gilbert wants us to believe, whether it is the multimillionaire Bin Laden, the corrupt thugs in the Sudanese government, the oil-sated mullahs of Iran or the vicious bullies of Pakistan. There is not one single example in the world of an authentic, popular Muslim peace movement. The few Muslims brave enough to speak out are mercilessly persecuted by the rest of Ms Gilbert's "tolerant" Muslim "victims." ANTHONY LUDER Rosh Pina Jewish children saved Sir, - Re Amnon Rubinstein's "The no-parent Kindertransport" (December 4) and letters (December 12): While I am grateful to Britain for saving my life and teaching me about democracy, I feel free to point out some negative aspects: I have heard from numerous sources that after Kristallnacht, the Jewish Agency asked to bring 100,000 Jewish children to Palestine via Youth Aliyah - a proposal that did not find much favor with either the British Foreign or Colonial offices; and so this "compromise" was worked out: Each Kindertransport was accompanied to Britain by volunteers - teachers, nurses, etc. - who had to sign that they would immediately return to Germany. They were not allowed to be related to any of the children, and they also had to have family that could be held as "hostages." They all returned because they did not want to prevent one child from being saved, and many perished in the Shoah. They are heroes who deserve to be remembered. For each child, a deposit of 50 pounds sterling had to be made so the children should not become a "burden" on the British Exchequer during their proposed two-year stay. Considering that the average wage was then between three and four pounds a week, this was a hefty sum. That 10,000 children came to Britain was made possible by a radio appeal by Lord Balfour, which raised the magnificent sum of 500,000 pounds. All of us who came to Britain on a Kindertransport - I came in 1938 - must be grateful that it happened then; for I am sorry to say that I doubt if such a rescue project would be possible in today's Britain. EMANUEL FISCHER Jerusalem Daily 'fix' on METV Sir, - Your Billboard TV critic recently wrote about "the five people" who watch METV. I am one of those five people, and for the past six months I've been watching The Odd Couple. What a great show - it has humorous situations, witty dialogue and delightful characters, and I enjoy it far more than the "reality" shows and violent (sometimes boring) films on other channels. Even MGM and TCM, which have some wonderful oldies, show the same films over and over again. So carry on, METV. This lone kibbutznik thanks you for providing me with my daily half-hour "fix" of laughter. RENA ELLMAN Kibbutz Yasur