February 28: Working on the railroad

The public buses are outdated, foul-smelling noise-makers. Imagine what life could be like if buses were quiet and nonpolluting.

Working on the railroad
Sir, – In your editorial “Speed up the trains” (February 25), you correctly pointed out the need for an expanded and improved train system throughout the country. It would seem to this observer that the real problem is a cultural one. While we have seen a huge increase in the use of trains; we have not seen any accompanying improvement in any other facet of our public transportation system.
The public buses are outdated, foul-smelling noise-makers. Imagine what life could be like if buses were quiet and nonpolluting. Imagine buses travelling from Tel Aviv to Petah Tikva in 20 minutes, with their own reserved lanes. One has to wonder why we can overcome the impossible, but have great difficulty dealing with the mundane.
I can only hope that the light rail in Jerusalem, which started with so much promise, will be operating very soon, and that this in turn will provide an incentive to complete the light rail in the Tel Aviv region.
Sir, – Despite all the promised and welcome improvements in road and rail communication over the next decade, the cabinet is making a very big error in not insisting that among the priorities should be a fast rail link from the center of the country to Eilat (“Cabinet okays massive NIS 60b. transportation plan,” February 25).
Such a fast rail link would have the advantage of opening up the Negev and the Arava to new towns and settlements, as well as creating new industries and developing existing ones, and be a big boost for tourism. Technically there are very few engineering problems in linking the southernmost existing railway terminal at Zin with Eilat, as the terrain is on the whole very flat. There have been several feasibility studies that confirm the ease of such construction.
How many lives need to be lost on the Arava highway due to outdated, narrow and dangerous roads? Does this not also affect the decision to speed up the construction of a fast modern rail link?
It is clear from the cabinet discussion that to extend the line to Eilat would be very expensive. However, there are many ways to finance large capital projects. The money could be raised from the private sector, allowing the developer to run the line in cooperation with Israel Railways for, say, 20 or 30 years, after which time the line would revert to the state. Within a relatively short time, such a rail link would generate substantial profits and change the future of the Arava and Negev for the better.
It’s not too late for the government to think again and find a suitable way to finance this important potential rail link. It used to be said that the development of the South was impossible due to the lack of water. However, today, with sophisticated desalination plants producing water at a very low cost, the Negev and the Arava are ready for serious development and population.
‘Anger’ over heritage sites
Sir, – Palestinians threw rocks and bottles at IDF soldiers in Hebron Monday in response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s inclusion of the Cave of the Patriarchs (“Clashes break out in Hebron over heritage list,” February 23)  because they believe – and not without good reason, thanks to weak decisions by our leaders – that Hebron, as well as Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, are areas that will be part of their state. This assumption must be corrected without delay.
Then the Prime Minister’s Office reacted with anger on Tuesday night to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s warning that a “religious war” could be sparked by Israel’s decision on the heritage sites. (“Abbas warns heritage sites list could trigger a religious war,” February 24). And how does this “anger” manifest itself? In the usual apologetic tone: “Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs – the burial place for more than 3,500 years of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people – are certainly worthy of being refurbished and preserved.”
What should have been said was that they are being included on the heritage site because they are an integral part of the Land of Israel and on Jewish Land.
Sir, – If the Palestinian Authority president is upset that the Israeli prime minister included the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb in a list of heritage sites, he’s probably not thrilled that the Bible declared the land of Israel to be our national heritage site, either.
Slamming the wrong alliance
Sir, – I am disturbed by David Newman’s article “An unholy alliance” (February 23), in which he slams the religious Zionist community and North American Christians for supporting Israel morally and financially. He is deeply troubled by this wave of encouragement for the Jewish state.
Yet some in his university are actively involved in delegitimizing Israel and, when not advocating a boycott of our country, they are raising vast sums of money from far-Left supporters and liberal Jews, for the purpose of attacking us.
I speak neither as a religious Zionist nor an Evangelical Christian. I am not from the far Left or Right; I am a rank-and-file Israeli. As such, I am witness to who is attacking us internally and from outside our country.
It is neither Zionists, religious or not, nor the US Christian community.
Our people in Dubai...
Sir, – More names have now been added to the steadily growing list of Mossad suspects. The number has now reached 357 and is still increasing.
Additional tennis players in suitable attire, plus rackets, have been seen on the list, as well as a number of golfers and their caddies. The Israeli national tiddlywink team has been removed from the list of suspects.
There was also a group of men claiming to be Manchester United footballers, each wearing the club T-shirt. The T-shirt was later proven to be fake.
One of the main, very efficient Dubai liquidators who has been officially recognized by all governments is apparently Shahar Pe’er, of whom we are very proud (“Our woman in Dubai: Pe’er a smash hit,” February 19).
The Dubai hotel association has expressed extreme satisfaction at the sharp rise in hotel occupancy and has called on the government to encourage more top Hamas officials to visit their country.
... and those who support them
Sir, – Last week, Shahar Pe’er brought great pride to Israel in Dubai by not being intimidated by Dubai’s isolating her and restricting her to a side court. That she lost in the semifinal to the world’s No. 1 is nothing to be ashamed of (“Hero’s welcome for Pe’er despite semi defeat in Dubai,” February 21).
In your article you mention that Venus Williams was the only one to protest Dubai’s refusal last year to allow Pe’er to compete, and this year made her participation conditional on Pe’er’s inclusion. According to the article, “that (gesture) earned gratitude from Pe’er.” Should it not earn the gratitude of Israel as well that someone of Williams’s status stands up for the rights of an Israeli?
How nice it would be if the culture and sport minister could find the time to invite Williams to visit Israel as a guest. Pe’er could show her around her country, take her to visit the Holy Places sacred to all religions, and above all show her that while the country may be small, our hearts and appreciation are indeed huge.