February 1: It's really very odd how...

Israel is inhibited when it comes to mentioning God at official state functions.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It's really very odd how... Sir, - Emanuel Feldman's "The unmentionable three-letter word" (January 29) highlighted the sad irony whereby the United States, which invokes God's name and presence on official public occasions, adheres to a strict separation of church and state in law and practice. Israel, on the other hand, which integrates religious observance - for example, in the army and public holidays - and supports religious education, is inhibited when it comes to mentioning God at official state functions. MORDECHAI SPIEGELMAN Jerusalem ...we don't mention God Sir, - As a Jew, one need not be embarrassed by there being no God-talk at Israel's official public functions. Isn't one halachically Jewish even if he or she does not believe in God? In the past, atheism went together with not fulfilling the mitzvot, but not today. There is Jewishness and mitzva-observance without belief in God, and it is on the rise. Perhaps the silence is a call to all Jews - religious and secular, in Israel and elsewhere - to probe the classical texts of Judaism, especially the Five Books of Moses, and even the Talmud, for affirmations of being Jewish without believing in God. And in the religious-political world, does not God-talk, at root, mean a clash of civilizations, each with its own version of God and His Prophet? Perhaps there is some hidden Godly wisdom in not mentioning "the unmentionable three-letter word." JOSEPH DAVID Jerusalem Whose jihad is it? Sir, - Larry Derfner posits that our reprisal raid into the Gaza Strip was the result of Israel's warlike nature ("US, read Israel the riot act," January 29) and implies that Hamas, as well as Israeli Arabs, did all in their power to peacefully prevent the cruel Israeli war machine from attacking Gaza. Well, Mr. Derfner is correct in that there is an insane, bloody, seemingly perpetual war going on here, but it is a Palestinian jihad to destroy Israel. At the same time, a serious and ongoing attempt to peacefully settle this dispute is being carried out by the Israeli side, which to date has been met only by even more and greater Palestinian attempts at our destruction. KENNETH BESIG Kiryat Arba Sir, - It seems Larry Derfner is very dissatisfied with his Jewish fellow countrymen; he considers almost all of them warmongers because they supported the Gaza operation. That is his right. Having failed to convince us of the righteousness of the Palestinian cause, however, what is not right is his attempt to convince other countries to force Israel to go against the will of its people. It seems that Mr. Derfner supports democracy, as long as he wins. If he loses, then democracy is entirely dispensable. MICHAEL GREENGARD Holon 'Live, from outside Noah's Ark...' Sir, - In light of today's reporting on the Middle East, imagine if there had been media coverage of major events in Jewish history - news and opinion, cartoons and, of course, readers' letters from those actually living those events. Would there have been responsibility and accuracy, demands for accountability? How would The Desert Sands Daily News, for example, have covered the career of Moses and those 40 years in the desert; or, earlier, the Garden of Eden - particularly the role of the snake? Or how animals were looked after in Noah's Ark? And what about the lives of David and Solomon, especially David and that slingshot venture? Would he have emerged the hero, or Goliath? STAN MARKS Melbourne Aliya museum: Great idea Sir, - We at the Boys Town Jerusalem school (Kiryat No'ar Yerushalayim) salute Michael Freund's suggestion for a national museum of aliya in Jerusalem ("Alleviating the aliya crisis," January 28). Boys Town Jerusalem was established in 1948 to provide the fledgling state with a top-level educational institution for the waves of immigrants rolling in from North African countries to Eastern Europe. We have continued to host nearly every aliya group journeying home to Israel. Regardless of their socioeconomic level, we're proud to have granted students an outstanding technological and religious education, as well as having given our 6,200 graduates the tools to become leaders in various fields. Today, new olim from the former Soviet Union, France, Ethiopia, Iran and other nations are among the most recent immigrants to Boys Town. It has been our wish for some time to create a museum on campus with walls "dedicated to telling the remarkable story of the Ingathering," as Mr. Freund so aptly put it. May our joint vision become a reality. JONATHAN SNOWBELL Boys Town Jerusalem Jerusalem Cultural care pays off all around Sir, - Your correspondent points out that one of the joys of living in a Jewish state is that our working and social lives are planned around our holy days and festivals. He claims that he is not a racist when he feels he does not have to plan his life according to others' religious holidays. I agree on both these points. However, when living and working in a society together with other religious and ethnic groups, it is a matter of cultural sensitivity to consider their needs. For over 20 years I coordinated training courses for the Israel Childbirth Education Centre. Supported childbirth and the rights of the childbearing family have no barriers, and these courses were attended by religious and secular Jews, and by Christian and Muslim Arabs. Every year, before planning a course, I would open my diary and work out the syllabus carefully to avoid holding meetings on religious holidays of any kind. It was a headache, but it ensured that every student would be able to complete the course without compromising her religious beliefs ("Am I a racist?" Letters, January 27). WENDY BLUMFIELD Haifa