December 26: Who's in charge

Have the authorities who control our purse strings gone mad? Millions are being spent on brushing up Jerusalem for Bush while students are about to lose their semester.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Who's in charge? Sir, - Have the authorities who control our purse strings gone entirely out of their minds? Nine million shekels have been allotted to spruce up Jerusalem for President Bush's visit - a project which includes a furniture revamp for Beit Hanassi ("Clean streets for Bush, not for rest of capital," December 24). On the same page of the paper we read of students who have lost an entire semester because their lecturers are striking, and we just ended a two-month high school teacher strike without a satisfactory conclusion. Meanwhile, soup kitchens and food banks are being run solely by volunteers because the government hasn't solved the problem of the working poor. And there is still no viable defense system for citizens in areas vulnerable to missile attacks. Is this a democracy if the common people have no control over government priorities? WENDY BLUMFIELD Haifa Strike back Sir, - Several months ago, a planned boycott of Israel's universities by English academicians was averted after much effort and the sterling support of all major US universities. It is ironic that if the present university semester in Israel is lost as a result of the strike ("Student anger bubbles over as hopes for saving semester fade," December 21), the intended effect of that boycott will have been achieved. At that point, Israeli universities will have in practice ceased to function as universities, as they are no longer teaching students. They may still be recognized as research institutions, but not as universities. The report also mentions that the National Union of Students is preparing to go to court to demand a tuition refund for the semester. There may be several other legitimate factors for which the students should be compensated as well, including accommodation costs for the semester, along with a more complex figure: six months of future earnings per student at the pinnacle of their eventual careers, as each of those careers will have been curtailed by six months (one university semester). Perhaps the education and finance ministers, together with their respective bureaucrats, will approach this strike more seriously and with more urgency when they consider these implications. HILLEL HURWITZ Ra'anana Girls' power Sir, - I thought "Sex is for adults" (December 24) was a very well written article. I agree that our youth are not being told about the psychological and emotional consequences of having sex too early, and fathers are not protecting their daughters. I am, however, troubled by one thing. Shmuley Boteach writes about the young men that pressure young women, but makes no mention of the fact that more and more, it is young women who are becoming the sexual aggressors. I felt that this article should have more equally commented on that phenomenon. In the end, I believe that it is significantly a result of our increasingly overly sexualized culture that pressures young men - and young women - to pursue sexual relations at earlier ages. BRADLEY NATHAN Denver, CO Gentle contempt Sir, - In the closing paragraph of "Should we fear faith?" (December 25), Jonathan Tobin writes that our "phobia for public Christianity" is irrelevant today because in America "it is believers, rather than unbelievers, who are more likely to stand up for Jewish rights and Israel." My experience leads me to agree with this assertion, but he has not presented the bigger picture. For some reason I don't fully understand, I log considerable time in front of Christian television programming in the small hours of the morning. Yes, there is massive support for Israel, both spiritual and economic. Yes, there is tremendous dialogue on deepening Jewish-Christian relations. However, efforts toward the conversion of the Jews is squarely on the agenda, albeit it is to be done "gently." A born-again acquaintance said of the Messianic Jews, "We call them 'Complete Jews.'" I remarked that we have a phrase for them, too: We call them "Christians." Yes, Jews and Mormons are physically safe in the US from an intrusive government. We are not safe, however, from social and religious contempt. I am not confident that Huckabee and his ilk do not hold national public offices because of a generalized fear of their contemptuous views, but rather, because of their marketing strategies. PAULA GATES Cheltenham, PA Constitutional confusion Sir, - Jonathan Tobin gets close to the proper point in the aggravated issue of separation of church and state, but further refinement is necessary. The ultimate point about this issue, as with censorship and freedom of speech, is that the Constitution aims to keep the government from depriving citizens of free speech and free press, by legislation or executive action. Similarly, it wants no established religion for the state. However, among citizens there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional happening when Mr. A prevents Mr. B from speaking in Mr. A's house, or does not sell him a printing press. Equally true, Mr. A can proclaim his religion, whether he is a minister or a candidate for political office. Religions may even vie with each other as to which is better. In Tobin's words, we should not fear faith more than we should fear doubt, atheism or modernism. Unless we attain this understanding of Constitutional law, we shall continue to confuse each other with specious arguments about how much religion there should be in the public square, or how much religion there should be in politics. JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem Dealing in spades Sir, - I found "Armenia optimistic Israel will recognize massacre as "genocide" (December 23) terribly intriguing. It is a classic example of evasive semantics, often practised in the name of journalistic objectivity. In light of the courageous stance taken by a score of Turkish historians, your editorial policy of resorting to euphemisms like "massacre" or "killings" is no longer merely anachronistic - it has become downright pathetic. You note that "some scholars have declared [the extermination of the Armenians] to be the first systematic act of genocide in 20th century." The last time I checked, "most" historians and genocide scholars had affirmed the historicity of the Armenian genocide. It seems that when it comes to the Armenian genocide, your editors choose to take a cavalier attitude toward the accurate usage of quantitative pronouns. It is high time for The Jerusalem Post to call a spade by its name, and start terming the 1915 extermination of Armenians for what it was: genocide. GAREN MEGERDITCHIAN Toronto, ON Crazy idealists Sir, - I was pleasantly surprised by an entire editorial on aliya and what would facilitate more Jews coming to live here ("Beyond aliya," December 24). But it is beyond me how you could overlook the reasons a Jew would want to settle here. I never met an oleh who came here to take it easy or to get rich. None came for the side benefits. We are all either idealists or crazy. We don't immigrate to Israel - we "go up to the Land," because we know we have a mission. Strengthening Jewish pride and learning is the only way to get more Jews here, and to keep them. MOSHE M. VAN ZUIDEN Jerusalem