January 8: The Jewish factor

Politicians like Livni are supposed to represent the Jewish people in the Diaspora.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Jewish factor Sir - We have hosted quite a few Taglit young men and women, and I believe that Tzipi Livni is right on the mark ("Livni: Connection between Israel and Diaspora is weakening," January 7). Most of these first-timers to Israel are impressed with the country. But what makes them feel they are "home" is the Shabbat atmosphere - the Jewish character - in the homes they visit. They aren't looking for a travel tour, but to excite and rekindle their Jewishness. Politicians like Livni are supposed to represent the Jewish people in the Diaspora, to give those they meet a sense of belonging and show even foreign politicians the unique Jewish nature of our people. I wonder how many politicians and Taglit people our foreign minister has invited to her home for a Shabbat experience; or how many divrei Torah she has used to open her meetings here and in the Diaspora. Surely part of her job is to bring the feeling of a "people of Israel" to our Diaspora brethren. But I fear that all they see is, as she says, "Israeli people." YAACOV PETERSEIL Jerusalem PM's Judaism Sir, - In Herb Keinon's and David Horovitz's interview with the prime minister ("Every solution will be painful," January 4), Ehud Olmert's "the world... speaks of Israel in terms of the '67 borders [and] the division of Jerusalem," together with his emphasis on demographics as the yardstick for the future territorial redemarcation of Jerusalem's borders, seem to indicate a willingness to compromise over the Temple Mount. Should this be so, I believe it important to remind the prime minister that neither president Sadat of Egypt nor king Hussein of Jordan insisted that Israel relinquish sovereignty over the Mount as a condition of peace. Perhaps that is because, as men of religion, they recognized the validity of the two religious claims revealed in the sacred texts. The Temple Mount is never shared. There is always only one governing body over it, changing when the wheel of history turns; for history is not linear and progressive, but a cycle that revolves at appointed times that have nothing at all to do with democracy. Hence, any effort on our PM's part to compromise Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount demonstrates that while he may speak of the required Jewishness of the State of Israel, he has no understanding of the inner meaning of Judaism. LILY POLLIACK Jerusalem A cold peace? It's almost on ice Sir, - Re "Egypt working against us for years" (January 2): How could the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) sign an agreement to purchase gas from Egypt through East Mediterranean Gas (EMG)? At the opening, in August 2007, of the connection of American-Israel Paper Mills to the Israel Natural Gas System (the first industrial plant in Israel to be connected), Minister of National Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer stated: "In May 2005, in Egypt, I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Egyptian oil minister, which will form a framework agreement for the import of Egyptian natural gas to Israel for the next 20 years. Further to this memorandum, IEC signed a trade agreement with the Egyptian company EMG for the supply of natural gas via a pipeline that is currently being constructed from El Arish, in Sinai, to Ashkelon." This pipeline is due for completion in the spring. Was not the minister advised of the political situation with Egypt? The Egyptian economy does not depend upon exporting gas to us and can, at a turn of the valve, cut off the natural gas supply to our strategic electricity-generating power stations and industrial plants. We don't have to go "green" because it is the vogue and rely on countries that diplomatically and economically work against us. COLIN L LECI Jerusalem Why standards exist... Sir, - Rabbi Reuven Hammer's claim that no Orthodox rabbinical group has yet to dialogue with either a Conservative or Reform rabbinical group ("Orthodox obstacles," December 27) is just not true. In 1987, at the annual Rabbinical Council of America's annual convention, the president of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly of America publicly addressed the RCA convention. The president of the RCA had previously, in the same year, publicly addressed the Rabbinical Assembly's annual convention. The Shulhan Aruch is among the precedents for the official standards, the criteria, for a Beit Din's requirements for conversion. This precedes the establishment of both the Reform and the Conservative movements. Any university's graduate school requires, as a prerequisite for acceptance to its graduate level, a bachelor's degree.This is not putting up obstacles; it's a standard. If one wants to qualify for conversion to Judaism, the Beit Din requires that certain prerequisites be satisfied by the candidate. In addition,there have been Conservative rabbis who decided to follow the standards for an Orthodox rabbi. They successfully satisfied the criteria of study and Orthodox commitment, which included passing exams, and became newly ordained Orthodox rabbis. Some of them became active in the Rabbinate and the field of Jewish education. Let's respect each other despite our differences, and respect the reasons for established standards. RABBI JOSEPH S. DAINA US Army, Retired Jerusalem ...and which ones matter Sir, - I agreed with the general thrust of Michael Freund's "The 'Zionist of The Year' award" (January 2). However, he made a subtle error when he promoted the teaching of love of country, patriotism and Jewish pride, claiming that "these principles are so essential to Israel and to its future." In fact, many Israeli expatriates share these ideas but still wish for nothing more than to live abroad. The future of Israel rests on a real connection to Israel, one based on the Torah. It is no surprise that Orthodox Jews remain Israel's staunchest supporters, even in an era when polls confirm that many Jews view the dismantling of Israel with equanimity. JOEL EZOORY Jerusalem Of captives... Sir, - Re Avigdor Lieberman's criticism of the Israeli officials who have called for the release of Fatah Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti from jail, Mr. Lieberman has forgotten, or ignores, the importance of our commandment to redeem captives (pidyon shvyuim), one of the Torah's most essential guidelines since, as our sages teach, nothing is greater than saving lives. While Minister Ben-Eliezer's approach - to release Barghouti on the pretense that he is a more comfortable partner to negotiate with - is not very appealing, still, if all negotiating channels dried up, we would have no other option but to release Barghouti in order to get Gilad Schalit back home. I wonder what Mr. Lieberman would have to say if it was his kid out there ("Lieberman may pull party from gov't," On-Line Edition, January 7). FALI BRAUN Jerusalem ...and criminals Sir, - The proposed release of architects of terrorist attacks apparently guilty only of "ink" and not "blood on their hands," includes people such as Marwan Barghouti. By the same token, Adolf Hitler should not be held culpable for the more than six million civilian murders committed by the Third Reich. He never personally pulled the trigger, ignited the incinerator, or performed experimental medical procedures. DAPHNE BURDMAN Jerusalem