January 27: Am I a racist...

I naturally don't want to see it become another Muslim, Christian or Hindu state, or even a multicultural melting pot of universal whatever-ism.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Am I a racist... Sir, - Jeff Barak made me stop and think about racism ("Bigoted immigrant," January 26). In the Jewish state we speak our ancient Hebrew language, which makes our ancient texts and teachings accessible to the common man. Our government offices, schools and businesses are closed on our Sabbaths and holidays. Our schools teach Jewish history from antiquity to the modern day, and our clocks are turned forward and back for Jewish convenience around the holidays of Pessah and Yom Kippur. I do see how our dominance over language, the calendar and culture can make an Arab in Israel feel like a fish out of water. True, I don't go out of my way to make my Arab neighbor comfortable by speaking his language, closing for his religious holidays, following his culture or adjusting the clocks at Ramadan. I moved to this Jewish state because the one I left could not satisfy my Jewish lifestyle. There are 50 Muslim states, 20 Arab states and just one, tiny Jewish one. Since only it can ever meet my needs, I naturally don't want to see it become another Muslim, Christian or Hindu state, or even a multicultural melting pot of universal whatever-ism. The question is, how do we prevent that happening - and am I a racist for even asking the question? ERIC POLLY Beit Shemesh ...or a protector of democracy? Sir, - Jeff Barak fails to notice that the Jewish population of Israel is the minority in this case. There are 65 times more Arabs than Jews in the Middle East, and the vast majority favor the end of Israel. To see any parallel between Arabs and the African-American minority is absurd; with rare exceptions, blacks have always desired coexistence and equality rather than domination. The attempt by political leaders like Avigdor Lieberman to protect Israeli democracy from internal subversion during wartime is understandable, and laudable. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont Sir, - Jeff Barak asks a serious question - how one reconciles the concepts of a Jewish state with a democracy containing a significant minority. It is, however, only relevant in relation to a loyal minority. How Israel has treated its Druse and Beduin minorities is, indeed, painful and unforgivable. The majority of Israeli Arabs, particularly Arab MKs, identify with the Palestinian cause, which, in its purest form, calls for the elimination of Israel. No other parliament would allow any member to openly express such views. No other Supreme Court would consider hearing a challenge to such a position. But Israel's intellectual elites are champions of moral relativism and political correctness. Before being entitled to privileges, one must show first responsibility, then loyalty. ROY STERN Efrat Democracy in action? Sir, - Whenever there is a political candidate who is against the establishment and has a good chance of winning an election, suddenly a criminal investigation heats up. It's happened a number of times, and none of the investigations have gone anywhere. This time it is the daughter of Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu, and naturally it's happening just before the election, when there is little chance to rebut the suspicions ("Lieberman's daughter arrested," January 26). HARVEY MATTHEW Jerusalem No practice, only preach Sir, - Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (HRW) states as the criterion for the use of weaponry, "the legal requirement to take all feasible precautions during military operations to avoid harming civilians" ("IDF's violations of laws-of-war prohibitions," January 26). In the past few years, an order of 25,000 unguided rockets have been hurled against Israel. Of these, to my knowledge, less than 10 have fallen on military targets - making them weapons aimed at civilians with a 99.96% certitude. What has HRW done to achieve a ban on these weapons? BINYAMIN ENGLMAN Jerusalem Truce, shmuce Sir, - Your January 26 headline "Hamas proposes one-year truce in exchange for open borders" belies the word Hamas uses. A call to the Egyptian embassy revealed that what Hamas is offering is not a sulh, which connotes a cessation of hostilities, but a tahadiyeh, a tactical pause - intended only for rearmament; during which time Hamas would also feel free to attack. During the previous two tahadiyeh arrangements, when Israelis were told Hamas had accepted a truce, or at least a cease-fire, there were more than 300 attacks (November 25, 2006-May 15, 2007); and more than 400 attacks (June 19-December 19, 2008). DAVID BEDEIN Israel Resource News Agency Jerusalem What makes our movement great Sir, - Rabbi Bradley Artson, dean of the Zeigler School of Rabbinical Studies, explained that Zeigler's decision to send its third-year students to the Conservative Yeshiva, instead of the Schechter Rabbinical School, is because he believes the two institutions "share a common pedagogical philosophy - integrating academic rigor, emotional engagement and spiritual yearning." That's the bottom line. I find it most regrettable that the issue of homosexuality became the focus of "Sociological differences explain division in Conservative Jewry" (January 23). In recognizing that the Conservative movement has traditionally sanctified the value of halachic pluralism, it should be understood that Conservative rabbinical seminaries the world over share the right to unilaterally decide whether or not to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis, and that all members of the International Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Rabbis may decide for themselves whether or not to perform commitment ceremonies for gay or lesbian couples. Our movement is committed to the pluralistic approach, and although there are clear halachic differences between the seminaries and the rabbis, all are committed to honestly respecting those who hold divergent opinions. That's what makes the Conservative movement great. RABBI BARRY SCHLESINGER President, Israeli Region of the International Rabbinical Assembly Jerusalem Don't give up on second marriage Sir, - I must react to Judith Kay's letter "Beduin vs Western wives" (January 25) and tell her divorced friend not to give up on the chance of remarrying. In our family, a divorced man in his forties, with a son, married a woman with four daughters; and my divorced sister, who has five children, a Labrador and an Alsatian, married a widower 11 years younger than herself. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last year. We were all surprised, but it happened! HILARY GATOFF Herzliya Pituah Want to hear him Sir, - I was delighted to read that Haruki Murakami is to receive the Jerusalem Prize. I was not delighted to hear that there will be no opportunity for readers (unless they are also publishers) to hear him speak at the Book Fair. Surely when a writer of his standing visits our capital, the fair's organizers should give some consideration to the readers, without whom they would be out of a job? ("Jerusalem book fair prize announced," January 21). MORRY SOMMER Jerusalem