January 4: Teddy in raptures

Teddy in raptures Sir, - My good friend Simon Rothschild of St. Gallen was made an Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem after making a major contribution to the Jerusalem Foundation, solicited by Teddy Kollek. His donation covered the costs of creating the Byzantine Section at the David's Tower Museum of the History of Jerusalem. Over many years of friendship Simon finally succeeded in bringing Teddy to St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland during a trip he made to Europe. One of the main attractions was the city's synagogue, a jewel of the type seen only in Germany before Kristallnacht. It had escaped destruction, being in Switzerland, and Simon was then president of the small community. Teddy's next visit on a busy day's schedule was the Monastery of St. Gallen, famous for its magnificent library decorated with wood-paneled walls and a highly-ornate marquetry floor. To walk on it visitors must wear felt slippers over their shoes. After a guided tour Teddy was invited to go down to the vaults, where many Hebrew books and manuscripts acquired by the monks over the centuries were stored but rarely, if ever, placed on display. At that point the entire day's program was put in disarray. Teddy, giving the lie to the belief that his religious knowledge was limited, would not move on. He spent hours down in those vaults, in raptures about what he was seeing and reading (Teddy Kollek, legendary mayor, dies at 95," January 3). DICKY REFSON Netanya Staying power Sir, - "From the Spider Club to the Nachshon Battalion" (January 2) was a nice story about soldier Hadas Nuriel. However, I am much more impressed by the thousands of youngsters who immigrated to Israel, did their military duty - and stayed. Golda Meir once asked a bunch of Jews in Chicago whether they were willing to die for Israel. When everybody answered yes, she asked: "Then why aren't you willing to live there?" MIRIAM NATHANS Rishon Lezion Benji's legacy Sir, - Returning from a fund-raising trip to South Africa I was pleased to read about my nephew Benji Hillman, who was killed in last summer's Lebanon War ("Remembering Benji," December 8). Anyone requiring further information about our efforts to continue his legacy by providing a home for lone soldiers can contact me at info@benjihillman.org or visit our memorial site at www.benjihillman.org RUTH RURKA Ra'anana Would Bialik like it? Sir, - Poet Haim Nachman Bialik is reputed to have said, some 70-odd years ago in Tel Aviv, that the Jews would not be a normal nation until there were Jewish thieves, Jewish murderers and Jewish prostitutes. Well, today we have not only Jewish prostitutes but women traffickers, wife-beaters and murderers, sex offenders; corruption and embezzlement in high office and low, commercialism, vulgarity, teenage alcoholics, and more. At this price, who wants to be a "normal" nation and see such a reflection in the mirror? We seem to have lost the way somewhere. How do we find our self-respect again? ("Yes to fighting human trafficking," Roy Wagner, January 2.) E. RAFAELI Jerusalem Sir, - Re "PM's bureau chief, Tax Authority heads arrested for bribery" (January 3): Do we now have the finest governance money can buy? AUBREY BLITZ Netanya Warm that seat first Sir, - How disappointing that Ban Ki-Moon, the new secretary-general of the UN, is already pontificating on "the problems of the Middle East" by citing his predecessor's absurd view that resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict would bring peace and harmony to the whole region ("Israel-Palestine conflict is key," January 1). Did the Israel-Palestine conflict cause the 15-year sectarian war between the Sunni-Shi'ite-Christian-Druse blocs in Lebanon? Was it to blame for the eight-year Iran-Iraq war with 1 million dead? Was it the catalyst for Saddam Hussein's invasion and occupation of Kuwait, or for the internecine Hamas-Fatah fighting? Such an inane, naive and spurious declaration before he has barely warmed his seat at the UN does not bode well for a calculable improvement at the UN's helm after the disastrous tenure of Kofi Annan. We must hope that after more careful analysis the new UN head will realize the complexity of those "Middle East problems." FAY DICKER Lakewood, New Jersey Atheists are right Sir, - As the word says: An atheist (a-theist) is someone "against theists" - namely those who concentrate their "spiritual" efforts on trying to influence other people for all possible or impossible interests; and this without, or even contrary to, logical concepts. And for that, they simply are right! This is nothing that could harm the eternal Source of Truth ("Atheism - myth versus truth," Sam Harris, January 3). RUTH BOCK Jerusalem Man of flair and vision Sir, - Contrary to what your reader wrote in "Beloved Leonard" (Letters, January 1) ), it was Zvi Haftel, former concertmaster, director and impresario of the IPO, who was instrumental in bringing Zubin Mehta to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1961. At the opening concert of the 70th anniversary IPO celebrations in Jerusalem on December 17, dedicated to Haftel's memory, Mehta paid homage to Haftel. Calling Haftel a "fireball," Mehta acknowledged his role in founding the symphony alongside Bronislav Huberman and said the IPO would never forget him. It was thanks to Haftel's extraordinary powers of persuasion that there was no conductor or soloist of world reputation who did not grace the orchestra's platform in the 50s and 60s. A list of the artists who appeared with the IPO reads like a "Who's Who" of music. These great artists not only came to Israel, but, thanks to Haftel, many performed without a fee - Rubinstein, Menuhin, Stern, Solti, to name a few. Both Rostropovich and Oistrakh visited Israel when diplomatic relationships between it and the Soviet Union were at a low ebb. Haftel was also instrumental in building the Mann Auditorium, the orchestra's present home. This man of vision and ideas had a special flair for getting things done. The development of the IPO in the 50s and 60s was due more to his efforts than, perhaps, those of any other person in the 20 years following its founding. STEPHEN H ROSS London Not so HOT Sir, - How does HOT get away with it? The cable company has a contract with its subscribers - some for a committed period of two years - to provide a service the terms of which, apparently, it is allowed to change at any time. Presumably, if it wished, for example, to discontinue all the channels except the main Israeli ones, there would be nothing or no one to stop it. If this is not illegal, it is certainly immoral. No doubt YES subscriptions will be receiving a boost - until that company inevitably decides to follow suit. MAURICE STEINHART Jerusalem Which End? Sir, - Elliot Jager's "Policy trumps presidential personality" (January 3) was informative and readable; but permit me to point out a blooper. London's theater district is located in the West - not the East - End. The writer, a New York Lower Eastsider, clearly confused London's historic Jewish neighborhood with the trendier thespian one. JOSEPH WEISSMAN Ra'anana/Paramus Elliot Jager responds: I apologize for the error, which I attribute not to my Lower East Side roots, but to shock over HOT's plan to deprive me of Eastenders when it removes BBC Prime.