February 4: The truth about Ramat Beit Shemesh

Once again an article on Ramat Beit Shemesh concentrates solely on the minority of residents who want to turn it into Mea She'arim.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The truth about... Sir, - Once again an article on Ramat Beit Shemesh concentrates solely on the minority of residents who want to turn it into Mea She'arim ("Planned Beit Shemesh mall sets off haredi protest," February 3). Why was no one from the majority of residents who welcome the proposed mall project interviewed? When will the voices be heard of the majority of residents - haredi and non-haredi - who wish to see Ramat Beit Shemesh grow and blossom? JEREMY FINN Ramat Beit Shemesh Sir, - A factual correction: Shlomo Zalman Perlstein is not the "Chief Rabbi of Beit Shemesh" - that honorific title belongs to Rav David Spektor. Perlstein likes to call himself the "Marei d'Asra" (i.e. chief rabbi) of Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, because he happened to be one of the first rabbis to set up camp there at the inception of the neighborhood - but, in truth, he represents nobody other than himself and his community. He is probably the most extremist of all rabbis in the neighborhood, and as a resident, I found it objectionable for his opinion to be presented as if it represented all the residents. There are scores of other rabbis in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph who are at least equally respected, and it would be fitting to give them some prominence in your future coverage of our town. By the way, I am deeply religious and strongly in favor of the new mall. SHAUL BEHR Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph ...Ramat Beit Shemesh Sir, - The Jerusalem Post has repeatedly covered stories regarding the extreme haredi community in Beit Shemesh/Ramat Beit Shemesh without taking note of all of the positive aspects of this community, and of the work being done to ensure that this city remains open and friendly to all Jews. In the interest of a more balanced picture: Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh are communities where good will and unity are flourishing. The socioeconomic work being done, largely by religious Anglos, in cooperation with the Ethiopian population (Project Daybreak), not to mention organizations like Lema'an Achai and the Givat Sharet Hesed Committee, which aid the city's impoverished inhabitants - too many for the municipality to handle alone - are well worth researching and documenting. I know you have run stories on Project Daybreak, but they do not seem to number as many as those on the haredi violence. The new immigrants from all over the world and the veteran Beit Shemesh population are together becoming a fascinating melting pot not seen in many other places in Israel. Re the extremist haredi issue, the proactive, positive approach continues to shape our local reaction. This past fall, a peaceful demonstration was held with the participation of over 2,000 residents proclaiming that while there might be disagreements regarding levels of religiosity and desires for others to adopt certain communal norms, violence and coercion would not be accepted. We Anglo olim are committed to changing the atmosphere to one of a dignified live and let live, and, perhaps, one of learning about the other. The Action Committee against Violence in Ramat Beit Shemesh, organized in August, 2007, has been working hard to bring this issue to the fore. A recent meeting with the mayor and police chief was attended by well over 350 local residents demanding changes in the way the extremists are dealt with. Changes are already being made as a result of that meeting. Aside from the political and police front, we are working hard to approach our extreme haredi neighbors as just that - neighbors. Relationships are being established through private meetings (unheard of in the past) and we have begun to explore more public displays of unity as well. This may seem naive and pie-in-the-sky to some, but proactive, impossible-seeming, dream-based ideology is what this country was built on. So while the public may undoubtedly enjoy reading about the more sensational stories of violence and threats of violence, it might be worth your while to spend some resources on the more kind and unifying sides of Beit Shemesh. RABBI DOV LIPMAN SHARON RAANAN Beit Shemesh Well done, Prof. Newman Sir, - I want to voice my support for David Newman's withdrawing his appearance at the "Israel-Palestine," event at Imperial College in London ("Israeli professor pulls out of London event featuring supporter of suicide bombing" (February 3). Newman basically said that it was one thing to argue points with academics, or even non-academics, whose views differed vastly from his own, but quite another to debate fanatics, terrorists and out-and-out extremists. I think he is correct. Ignoring these people probably won't make them go away, but it will not get one bogged down in an argument that can't be won. In the famous Four Questions of the Pessah Haggada, the one asked by the mischievous son - "Why do we celebrate?" - is, on the surface, a good question. But the problem is not the question itself, but the motive behind it. It is not being asked out of a desire to learn, but to argue. So, too, extremists attend these debates and forums not looking to find middle ground, but to either convert supporters or find a basis to become offended, and thus justify their terrorism and vitriol. It is best to simply ignore them. MATTHEW BERMAN Herzliya Drop those labels Sir, - I applaud Michael Freund's "People of the look" (January 30) for casting light on the subject of labeling one's fellow Jews. I grew up in a community that adhered to, even embraced, the practice, and it was undoubtedly one of the reasons I moved to Israel. I'm reminded of it every time I go back for a visit. I'm proud to say that in my community here, my 12-year-old son, in his untucked blue shirt, navy chinos and sockless Naot footwear, is comfortable praying next to the white-shirted, black-velvet-kippa yeshiva boys who are guests in our shul for Shabbat. In our small world, there is room for everyone. For the education of our children and for tikkun olam it's about time we stopped judging the color, size and quality of our kippot, tablecloths and other coverings and started focusing inwards, on how we deport ourselves. What it all boils down to is our level of tolerance and our acceptance of those who are different from us. If there's anything in this world that needs fixing, it's precisely that. CHAVI FELDMAN Hashmonaim Original thinking Sir, - I enjoyed the refreshing and original thinking in Larry Derfner's "The liberal case for McCain" (January 31). His courage and sincerity are much appreciated. I personally feel that the US could do with the draft. I would like to see universal conscription for the US military, and something like our sherut leumi (National Service). It would help the country immensely. PETER SHMUEL LEVITT Netanya Quite satisfied Sir, - Although I didn't see my letter on the subject in print (and I understand you can't print 'em all) I was pleased to see my main point in your February 1 editorial "Take responsibility," so I was quite satisfied. Two things we must change here are the education and electoral systems. All the ordinary citizen can do is write to the newspaper or demonstrate, and neither has much effect. HILARY GATOFF Herzliya Pituah