February 6: And they're off

We read “Name power” on the bus from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem. We are sure that our busmates could not imagine what these loud Americans were guffawing about. We don’t think we have laughed so out loud in many years.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
And they’re off!
Sir, – Reading “Parties play hard to get in first day of coalition talks”( February 4), the report that Shas co-leader Eli Yishai said “he had no problem sitting in the opposition if it means preventing a ‘tear in the nation’ or a ‘civil war’ as a result of the coalition trying to force haredim to serve in the IDF” requires further serious amplification.
Is one to understand that haredim, should they be required to serve in the military, would be prepared to kill and maim fellow Jews rather than the real enemy? Such statements, if factual, show that the teachings of Torah, which the haredim purport to maintain with the highest regard, are falling on deaf ears.
“Sages, be careful in what you say lest you incur the penalty of exile and find yourself banished to a place of evil waters, where your disciples who follow you may drink from them and die, lest through them you cause the name of Heaven to be profaned” (Ethics 1:11).
Notwithstanding Gil Hoffman’s advice in his analysis piece directly below that item (“Wanted: A grain of salt”), I simply do not have enough salt.
The writer is a rabbi
Sir, – With regard to coalition bargaining over ultra-Orthodox exemptions from the army and national service, anyone familiar with the haredi world knows that limiting the number of exemptions will create a new form of social injustice.
Yeshivot will not allow outsiders to determine which students receive exemptions. As a result, the sons of yeshiva heads and their relatives, haredi politicians and their relatives, rich donors and their relatives, and the heads of the banks where accounts are kept (and their relatives) will be the first to receive the cherished prize.
In addition, buying exemptions from the yeshiva will become very attractive so that a young man can demand an exorbitant sum from the family of any future bride when he goes on the marriage block. He will be a haredi rock star.
Let our non-haredi political parties avoid such injustices and the desecration of God’s name.


Tel Aviv
Jewish flower
Sir, – Jac Friedgut (“The Ed Koch legacy: Farewell to a feisty fighter,” Comment & Features, February 4) should know that Koch was not the second Jewish mayor of New York City but the third, and that Abraham Beame was not the first. The first was Fiorello Laguardia, whose Italian-born mother was Jewish.


What’s in a name
Sir, – With regard to “Name power” (Out There, February 3), I know exactly what Herb Keinon has been through.
My own name is impossible for Israelis to elucidate. Never mind that it begins with the unpronounceable hard “er” (or in my case “ir”) appellation, it is a double whammy in having a “w” in the middle, which inevitably comes out like a Germanic “v.” So my name comes out as “air vin,” which sounds like a celestial French wine.
My ATM (which I still use in English, as my Hebrew would probably cause the account to have apoplectic spasms of fraud, larceny or downright theft) welcomes me with this: “Hello Arvin,” which, when spelled like this, reminds one of a forest rodent.
Sure, I could use my Hebrew name, which is Itzhak, but even in Israel it sounds like an expectorant. So I’ll remain Irwin – but I’ll also remain Itzhak, named for my mother’s brother, who was killed in Japan at the end of World War II, and for my father’s brother, who was killed at Leyte Gulf.
It’s the least I can do.
Ma’aleh Adumim
Sir, – I agree that the name Herb is a bit problematic in Israel.
I have never been happy with the name, but was very surprised to find that herbert in middle German (whatever that is ) means warrior. (It is the name of the main street of the red light district in Hamburg; it takes little imagination to understand the connection.) The other meaning is something you put in food while cooking.
I can find no connection between the two meanings. It would be impolite to ask about my research methods.
Sir, – Thank you, Herb Keinon, for a great laugh.
We read “Name power” on the bus from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem. We are sure that our busmates could not imagine what these loud Americans were guffawing about. We don’t think we have laughed so out loud in many years.
Even as frequent visitors to Israel we were able to identify with Herb’s experiences. The article surely helped prepare us for the sense of humor and perspective we are sure we’ll need to keep for a successful aliya. And we are not sure the name Phil will provide us with an easier time than the name Herb.
Beit Shemesh
Sir, – There should be a weekly column on Sundays of Herb Keinon’s Out There. It would be a delightful way to start the week, especially as Sundays are a bit depressing to most new and former immigrants who miss having the day off.
It would give a well needed boost to readers every week.
Thank you, Herb!
Be’er Ganim
Back to reality
Sir, – Having recently returned from a spiritual and restful week in Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, respectively, I was abruptly brought back to the ugly reality that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s weak, surrender policies continue (“PM decides to transfer tax revenues to the PA,” January 30).
“A source in Netanyahu’s bureau said the decision was for a one-time transfer and was due to the economic hardships facing the PA,” you report. This was after the prime minister met with our friendly Quartet envoy Tony Blair, where the issue was raised. The US has also raised the issue – and of course the next step was a foregone conclusion. After all, how can the prime minister of a sovereign state stand up to the Tony Blairs and Barack Obamas, with their hypocritical vows of friendship? The citizens of Israel, many of whom cannot afford heating, food, medicines, etc., should take note that the Palestinian Authority owes us NIS 6 billion, which includes NIS 900 million for electricity and water bills, and NIS 700m. for funds advanced in the summer to pay PA salaries.
Netanyahu is sorry for their plight even though they have proved time and time again that they are our enemies and have sworn to destroy us.
How pathetic it all is. We, who are in our own historic and legal land, with no obligation or even right to consider giving up any part of it, have no leader who can stand up for the justness of our cause.


No shame Sir, – The salient point made in “Fighting anti-Semitism” (Editorial, January 28) related to blatant Muslim anti-Semitism as “expressions of fanatical Jew-hatred emanat[ing] from the Muslim world.” It is therefore paradoxical that the Israeli government countenances Muslim anti-Semitism by denying Jewish worship on the Temple Mount while permitting Muslim worship.
The rationale is that Jewish worship there would incur Arab wrath and possibly lead to Arab riots.
In the final analysis, this abrogation of Jewish religious rights contravenes a host of doctrines on basic human rights. Regrettably, there is no shame exhibited by the Israeli government.