February 7: Mridor's national visions

If we are not prepared to live by Hashem's commandments, what is our justification for living here?

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Meridor’s national visions
Sir, – Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor asks, “Who knows what would have happened had Ruth the Moabite tried to join the Jewish people now, with the way the Rabbinate handles conversions?” (“Meridor: The Western Wall shouldn’t be a synagogue,” February 4) As Ruth immediately and without reservation took upon herself all the mitzvot of the Jewish people, she would have had no problems. Problems only arise where there is or could be deception.
We are not like other people; we have different rules, and those rules made sure there would always be a Jewish people, through centuries of persecution. When we took Hashem’s commandments upon ourselves at Sinai, we separated ourselves from the masses, and those commandments made us Hashem’s partner, in turn giving us the sole right to live in the Land of Israel.  If we are not prepared to live by His commandments, what is our justification for living here?
Related to the above is perhaps Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech, in which he says, “The guarantee for our existence is dependent first and foremost on the knowledge and national consciousness that parents and the educational system impart to our children” (“PM: Palestinian talks without preconditions likely to start within weeks,” February 4). He also called on the youth and the nation to go out, walk the land and discover the country. How does that work if in the same breath, the prime minister once again begs our enemy to negotiate in order to take that land?

Sir, – Dan Meridor’s statement that “the Western Wall should be a national site and not a synagogue” got me thinking.
The Knesset should be a national site and not a house of parliament.
Mount Hermon should be a national site and not a mountain.
The Jerusalem Forest should be a national site and not a forest.
Reality should be as fantasized and not as seen.
This man is a dreamer and not a visionary.


Bar mitzva reply
Sir, – I appreciate Lita Arkin’s response to my earlier comments on an article about secular bar mitzva ceremonies, and am writing to tell her that we are more in agreement than she suspects (“... and secular bar mitzvas,” February 3). In my opinion, we disagree only on how to define “religious.”
For Jewish girls and boys to become bat- and bar-mitzvah they need only to have lived for 12 and 13 years, respectively. At that point, according to Halacha, they are responsible for their own actions. If they live an observant lifestyle, they will try to observe, as best they can, those of the 613 mitzvot pertaining to them. If they choose to be secular, they will observe whatever lifestyle they please, including devising their own rites of passage – or not.
I agree with Ms. Arkin that not holding “a ceremony in the synagogue… does not clear you from responsibility.” A common misconception is that only mitzvot regarding Shabbat, kashrut and prayer, are “religious.” However, those mitzvot that she mentions regarding behavior toward one’s fellow man are certainly religious. They constitute the entire second half of the Ten Commandments – which, incidentally, are to be found in “Yitro,” the Torah portion read this past Shabbat.
The entire Judeo-Christian ethic derives from the Torah, which is first and foremost a guide to living a proper, ethical lifestyle. Even those portions that seem to be only historical are, in fact, meant as life lessons, to teach us how to behave with honesty, kindness and sensitivity to others. I agree with Ms. Arkin’s regarding these values to be extremely important and very “Jewish”; I disagree with her considering them secular.
Finally, I am in complete agreement that “we need all the Jews we can keep.” I did not, nor would I ever, say otherwise.

Fayyad’s national visions
Sir, – We welcome the courageous words of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the Herzliya Conference (“Fayyad: We want to live alongside you in peace and security,” February 3), but unfortunately they are less significant than they appear. 
Fayyad tried to justify the insistence of PA President Mahmoud Abbas for a complete freeze of Israeli building on the West Bank and Jerusalem as a precondition to talks resuming, but in fact an Israeli freeze on building can only result from negotiations. Also, while the PA police are getting more effective, the economy in the West Bank is improving and movement by Palestinians is less restricted – all as a result of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policies – there can be no permanent improvement without a negotiated agreement between Israel and the PA. 
Abbas is apparently afraid that an “end of conflict” agreement will come out of such negotiations, and he, like his predecessor, does not want to go down in history as the Palestinian leader who accepted Israel and ceased the “armed struggle.”
Finally, Fayyad actually represents only about 2 percent of the Palestinians; he is greatly outnumbered in Fatah and Hamas. So his words, while pleasing, have little to do with reality.

A courageous pragmatism
Sir, – Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog’s speech at the Herzliya Conference is a paradox in that the very sector of society about which Herzog so passionately cares would never attend such a prestigious conference – and maybe cannot even afford a daily newspaper (“The social situation is inexcusable,” February 3).
“Bujie,” as he is affectionately known, heads a ministry that, until he took over, was as neglected and dejected as those whose interests it represents. He does not have the “fig leaf” of national security and fear with which to mollify his constituency; he faces the shocking reality of day-to-day existence and deals with it to the utmost of his ability.
Herzl was a visionary, but Bujie is a pragmatist – and yes we must slaughter sacred cows if we are to achieve the society that we, the ordinary people of Israel, desperately deserve.
His speech was brilliantly profound, and we need more courageous leaders like him if we want to keep our promised land.

    Tel Aviv
Accommodating tourists
Sir, – The so-called tourism professionals should stop blaming the Tourism Ministry (“Tourism industry mulls taking over marketing strategy from government,” February 2) and take a more honest view of what they are marketing. They will then realize that Israeli hotels offer mediocre facilities with poor service, at very expensive prices.
Superior hotels in most European resorts are significantly cheaper than in Israel. Our supposedly top hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv charge more than the top hotels in New York and London – and they are not in the same league. We were recently quoted $450 for a standard double room (off season) in Herzliya; when I told the reservation clerk that the five-star Savoy Hotel in Central London charged a similar amount, I was told that he was sorry, but he could not discount the price. Out of interest, we looked into the hotel a few days later, and it was virtually empty.
This country has an awful lot to offer the international tourist, butif the hotel industry does not treat them properly, they simply willnot come.