February 25: Wiser than Moses?

Shas MKs' shenanigans is proof that there is no place in politics for a religious party.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Wiser than Moses? Sir, - Once again, Calev Ben-David has cut through the sizzle and gone straight for the steak ("Is Shas trying to shake off pressure to quit the government with talk of gays and earthquakes?" February 22). As an observant Jew, I couldn't help but notice a confluence of events simultaneous with the brouhaha surrounding MK Shlomo Benizri's unfortunate remarks about homosexuality causing earthquakes. First, those of us taking part in the seven-and-a-half-year "daf yomi" cycle of learning the Talmud were, on the very day Benizri made his lunatic remark, learning about the prohibition of using one's learning "as a spade," or for financial gain. What is Shas doing in the coalition, if not for financial gain? Then, as part of the Torah portion Ki Tisa on Shabbat, we read of Moses' request to view God's countenance, to which God responds that Moses may only view "His back," but not "His face." This is generally accepted to mean that man's intellect is incapable of understanding God's actions as they occur; only after much time has passed is there the slightest chance that we might grasp God's plans. Is MK Benizri asking us to believe that he has been endowed with a greater intellect than Moses? An event occurs - a tremor - and he grasps God's plan, instantly. Ha! Watching the shenanigans of the Shas MKs is proof positive that there is no place in politics for a religious party. MICHAEL D. HIRSCH Kochav Yair Religious courts Sir, - Re "Resisting Islamic Law" (February 21): I would remind Daniel Pipes and his readers that our ancestors in Poland and other East European countries had many legal matters brought before Jewish courts headed by rabbis and recognized by the civil governments. For more on those courts, see Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer's In My Father's Court . YALE RICHMOND Washington The personalities... Sir, - Martin Gilbert believes that much of history "comes down to the personality of leaders" ("When there is no benign explanation," David Horovitz, February 22). That may have been true of past events; however, there is another very important factor at work in today's world. In Britain, the influential BBC made sure that prime minister Tony Blair's charismatic personality and convincing explanations of the "war on terror" were rarely seen by the viewing public. Two examples: The BBC did not broadcast Blair's brilliant speech to the US Congress in July 2003. To hear it you had to tune into CNN (the transcript is still available at www.cnn.com). It also censored his August 2006 speech in Los Angeles, replacing it with the BBC's political commentator's report of "What the prime minister meant to say was...." How many viewers found out what he really said by checking (www.number10.gov.uk)? So do we really get to see the personalities of our leaders - or are there forces at work ensuring that their place in history is relegated to what they can manage to achieve behind the scenes? LYNETTE ORDMAN Netanya ...of our leaders Sir, - David Horovitz wrote in this fascinating interview that "the United States... had no intention of going to war with Germany" (before Pearl Harbor). Actually, Roosevelt very much wanted to do so and was helping Britain as much as he could without formally declaring war. He could not declare war at that stage due to internal opposition, so he used his "backdoor policy." This consisted of opposing Japan's interests where and however he could, and by intentionally provoking the Japanese. Whether Roosevelt had some prior knowledge of Japanese plans or not, he thereby made Pearl Harbor or something like it almost inevitable, in the expectation that Hitler and Mussolini, being treaty-bound to do so, would come to the aid of the Japanese by declaring war on the US, thus removing Roosevelt's internal opposition. As we now know, the gamble paid off. R. PORATH Haifa Not said, not written, not even thought Sir, - I am deeply concerned about "German professors: Nazis helped establish Israel" (On-Line Edition, February 20). Had we indeed said what Jonathan Beck wrote in the first three paragraphs (which were not part of his interview with me) the audience of our public conference would have thrown us out - and rightly so. None of us has ever said, written, or even thought that the pressure on German Jews in the 1930s to emigrate to Palestine could in any way be construed as a reason for Germany to feel less obliged to support Israel. Nor have any of us ever said, written, or even thought - as reported by other Israeli news services - that the reparations which Germany has paid to Israel have redeemed its guilt. We did say that the Holocaust had cast a long shadow also on the Middle East, feeding into Israel's sense of insecurity and thus affecting its conflict with the Palestinians. We also said that in the relationship between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel, the Nazi era and the Holocaust have always been and will remain a central point of reference, on the German side constituting a legacy of obligation to fight racism, especially anti-Semitism, and to maintain friendly relations with Israel. We are extremely unhappy about the misunderstanding of our intentions and our views. PROF. DR. GERT KRELL Co-editor and Signatory of the 'Manifesto' on German-Israeli relations Frankfurt/Main, Germany The Editor responds: The information corrected by Prof. Krell was contained in the press release issued by the Netanya Academic College, which hosted the debate. Game theory Sir, - Why isn't the Monopoly Global Cities competition (only three days left to vote!) as commonly ballyhooed here as Eurovision and football? Everybody grew up with Boardwalk and Park Place in their pantheons of prestige. Now Jerusalem has a great chance of becoming the number-one city in the most popular game in the world (we are now number 4). Istanbul leads, with Montreal and Capetown ahead of us. We are last in the Green and heading for the "Boardwalk" (or Mayfair, or Savyon spot). That means Go! Where are the authorities on this? The media? If the Jewish world could be blasted into voting passionately, millions more kids would grow up with Jerusalem embedded in their consciousness as the prime city of Western civilization, the Holy City of the world par excellence. Vote at (www.monopolyworldvote.com/en-US/world). MARK FEFFER Jerusalem