January 13: No room for the Jews

We have many Arabs in our midst - why is there no room in Bethlehem for the Jew?

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
No room for the Jew Sir, - Two years ago, on the first day I started working in Har Homa, I unintentionally wore a jacket with buttons made of olive wood I'd bought in Bethlehem in 1982. Upon noticing, I pondered sadly the difference between those days, when both Arab and Jew could walk freely along Bethlehem's narrow streets, and today. I thought of Christian Arabs I'd known who left, or have been killed as "collaborators." Every day I'm in Har Homa I look out over Bethlehem and talk to her. I've written a number of letters to her - mostly in scribbled notes - as I wait for my bus, with reference to ancient friends: Rachel, whose grave sits on her right hand, Naomi and Ruth who worked the fields of Boaz, whose seed became King David, who pastured his flocks there, and a most famous Jew who was considered one of David's sons... and also to recent friends who taught music at the Bethlehem Bible College, and the orphanage choir that sang for my students when I took my first class there. What happened to you, Bethlehem? I ask. Why can't I just walk across this hill to you? And while I teach my schoolchildren the importance of sharing, I read in the papers that Dr. Rice doesn't agree that I have even the right to stand at my bus stop here in Har Homa and merely gaze upon you. I remember when the supposed "occupiers" at least shared you with everyone - Muslim, Christian and Jew alike. But now I have no share in you. Those who occupy you now exclude the Jews. As President Bush visited last week, I wondered: We have many Arabs in our midst - why is there no room in Bethlehem for the Jew? ("Abbas will ask Bush to 'order' halt to settlement construction," January 10.) DEVORAH AVIGAIL Jerusalem Sir, - News reports had it that President Bush, visiting Ramallah on Thursday last week, did not trust the Palestinian police to get close to him, let alone protect him. Not only that, the few policemen who were present had to hand over their guns (provided by us). How ironic, that we, nevertheless, are supposed to trust the Palestinians with our children and families. HAYA GRAUS Jerusalem Where's the context? Sir, - As a reader who often enjoys Barbara Sofer's columns, I was disappointed in "Small steps for evacuees" (UpFront, January 4) on the Gush Katif evacuees. On the personal level, one cannot but sympathize with the thousands of Israelis from the 17 Gush Katif settlements in the Gaza Strip who were evacuated in 2005. My problem with the column was that the subject seemed to be approached outside any broader context, though the author made no bones about her identification with the settlers, writing of "the heartrending evacuation from their homes in the Gaza Strip," etc. Emotionally, this is fair enough, but it is surely relevant to ask who sent the settlers to Gush Katif, who ordered them to leave, and why. Sofer closed by saying that to learn from the experience of the Gush Katif families, we need a think tank to make "a frank national reckoning about what went wrong." I agree. As one who sees all settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories as an obstacle to peace, I was disappointed that the column noted without disapproval that the settlers always speak not ofdisengagement, but of expulsion. I submit that most Israelis think otherwise. DAN LEON Jerusalem Example to follow Sir, - Evelyn Gordon's "Yes to compulsory arbitration" (January 3) should be urgently heeded in Israel to avoid the many strikes that are so detrimental both to our economy and to us as individuals. Not only does this type of legislation currently exist in other countries - the United States, Canada and Japan are examples - it was promulgated in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, over 30 years ago. At the time, in order to eliminate the labor disputes that were prevalent, the minister of labor, the Hon. Abie Abrahamson, introduced legislation whereby each side nominated an arbitrator, who then appointed a third arbitrator. Each side then presented its case and its arguments to the three arbitrators, whose decision was final. We can certainly follow the example of my good friend Abie Abrahamson, a proud Jew and prominent supporter of Israel, who would be delighted to see us follow his very able and wise lead. MIKE AYL Ashkelon Meaning of meaning Sir, - Saul Singer falls back on the age-old argument that without God, or some meaning for life outside the self, life is meaningless and unhappy ("The happiness of meaning," UpFront, January 4). He does not insist on God as the "higher" meaning, but he does insist on something called transcendence. The problem is: Once you move beyond the self and find meaning in children, God or country, you are still stuck with the question: What is the meaning of children? What is the meaning of God? What is the meaning of country? In other words, what is the meaning of meaning itself? I notice that in the Bible, as well as in all literature, pleasure does not raise questions such as, Why me? It is pain, boredom and suffering that produce books like Job. Even Ecclesiastes, which does find futility in learning, writing books, wealth and this life, advises the young man to enjoy his youth, live with a loved one, and have pleasure. Pleasure is its own meaning. Suffering has to find a transcendent "meaning." Victor Frankl may have been right about the survival benefits of finding meaning outside the self, but after surviving and finding the beyond-the-self ideal, the question remains: What is the meaning of that ideal? Singer means well, but he is no more successful in pointing to the secret of happiness than the selfish advocates of the self whom he criticizes. JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem Satisfied customer Sir, - I feel compelled to thank The Jerusalem Post's editors and staff for all the hard work they put into bringing us the excellent newspaper that I can't wait to receive every morning. Apropos, I would like to mention the fantastic service I have received from "Yiftah," who is in charge of home deliveries in Herzliya. The paper is brought up three flights of stairs to my door every morning - sometimes even before 5 a.m. On the odd occasion I have had to call to ask what happened to that day's edition, Yiftah has always been courteous and apologetic, even calling back to verify whether I have in the meantime received the paper. Well done! MARY POPPER Herzliya