January 18: A friend in need

Instead of slandering Israel perhaps the Turkish people should recall the true face of the country that was their friend in their time of need.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A friend in need
Sir, - The response by Israeli medical teams to the earthquake in Haiti ("Israelis race to save lives in devastated Haiti," January 17) brings to mind how only 10 years ago, in August 1999, Israel stood with the Turkish people, providing assistance, field hospitals and rescue teams when they suffered a major earthquake.
Instead of slandering Israel and threatening to recall their ambassador, perhaps the Turkish people should recall the true face of the country that was their friend in their time of need.
Taking a stand
Sir, - According to the article "Ayalon aides: Erdogan will speak differently in future" (January 15), President Shimon Peres said the mistake was the deputy foreign minister's and not the whole country's. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. The mistake was our government allowing the unabated defamation and incitement by Turkey to go unanswered while Peres and others praised Turkey for its value and friendship to Israel - even though Peres himself was grossly insulted by Erdogan last January.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon took a stand that the government should have taken. It is most unfortunate that once again we have shown the world how weak and dependent we are, when the opposite is in fact true - if only we had the courage to acknowledge it.
Sir, - What of the big picture vis-à-vis Israel and Turkey? The small-picture scenarios mostly center on the careers of Ayalon, Lieberman and Netanyahu. The big picture is surely the need to confront and root out anti-Semitism, worldwide. This objective must take precedence over pseudo-diplomacy.
Currently, that diplomacy is at a low ebb. This fact is widely evidenced in forums ranging from the UN and national governments to the smallest European NGO. The first warning shots are being fired in a new war on anti-Semitism. It would be a great pity if Ayalon's political career were sacrificed and the impetus for confrontation stemmed at this nascent stage of the fight.
A shameful desecration
Sir, - It was most upsetting to read what is being done at Ezekiel's tomb as we speak ("At his tomb in Iraq, the Prophet Ezekiel's Jewish identity is being erased," January 15). By the time anything at all can be done to stop this desecration, it will be too late. I would recommend that photographs of the tomb be taken as soon as possible before too much damage is perpetrated. What a shame for us, for the world and for our history.
Photographic memory?
Sir, - Without entering into any of the present argument about praying at the Western Wall, I would like to address the frequently mentioned fact that in Ottoman and British times, we see photos of mixed genders at the Kotel ("... and freedom to pray," Letters, January 17). The Wall before the Six Day War did not have the spacious plaza that exists today; it was a narrow passage, and room was very limited. In addition, in Ottoman and British times there were far fewer Jews than there are now. The women who came to pray were in the main fervent and very traditional.
Also, the ruling authorities at the time did not permit any deviation from the status quo; a divider was not permitted to be placed between the men and women. Once, when a bench was introduced to allow people to sit, it was removed under pain of prosecution.
Today, with vast numbers thronging the plaza and the Wall, different rules need to be applied.
Beit Shemesh
Protesting 'Code Red'
Sir, - With reference to Caroline Glick's "Column One: Code Red on Code Pink" (January 15), Israel is an occupying power. The Goldstone Report clearly states that it committed serious war crimes in Gaza last year which should be independently investigated and the perpetrators brought to trial. Those of us who believe in justice for Palestinians have the right to protest these crimes.
If our missions were illegal, then why did we successfully sail to Gaza five times with no interference, before Israel used its military might against unarmed civilians? Every time we sailed, we went straight from international waters to the waters of Gaza. It's worth mentioning that the Oslo accords grant the people of Gaza the right to 20 miles of their own shoreline without any interference from Israel.
The illegal actions were perpetrated by the Israeli navy, which, among other things, rammed our boat in December 2008 three times while we were in international waters 100 miles away from any coast. We are pursuing legal action against the Israeli government now.
Secondly, the Free Gaza movement is not pro-Hamas. We do not have any affiliation with any political group. We clearly state our affiliations on our Web site. We work with NGOs in Gaza, including PNGO and the Red Crescent and have never taken in any supplies for any political party. We go to Gaza to bear witness to what Israel does in our name and with our money, and we have taken on board members of many parliaments, physicians, journalists and other professionals.
Israel is the brutal occupier in the region, and thanks to projects such as sending the boats to Gaza, the world is beginning to wake up.
The Free Gaza movement
Los Angeles
Time to right wrongs...
Sir, - The interview by Ron Friedman with Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman highlights the problems faced by minority groups in this country even though they have been granted citizenship - the largest group being the Arab population ( "Righting years of wrong," January 15). There is no way that once a government has bestowed citizenship on a person, it can justify treating him any differently than another citizens.
Braverman's plan to upgrade the status of our Arab citizens should receive the support of everyone. One of the Arab pharmacists with whom I worked was trained in Jordan and was doing his internship before being given an Israeli license. I asked him why he had decided to do this in Israel and not in one of the neighboring oil-rich Arab countries where his salary would be greater. He told me that the best place to work with regard to salary was Saudi Arabia, but he could not gain access to that country because he held an Israeli passport.
Until we face up to the fact that the Israeli Arab citizens' problems are our problems, we face a tense and dangerous situation.
... and promote reading
Sir, - If Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar is serious about improving competence in Hebrew, banning foreign songs and word study is the wrong path ("Hebrew music only at schools, Sa'ar decides," January 13). Research and common sense tell us that there is only one sure way: Encouraging self-selected recreational reading in Hebrew.
Studies show that children who read more read better, write better, have better vocabularies and better control of grammar. They also know more about a wide variety of subjects. Research also tells us that when good books are made available and children have time to read, nearly all children do, in fact, read.
Don't cut off listening to good music, and don't force children to study word etymology. Promote children's and adolescent literature in Hebrew and support libraries.
University of Southern California