June 24: Halacha after all

Religious freedom is an important democratic principle.

letters (photo credit: JP)
(photo credit: JP)
Halacha after all
Sir, – I presume J.J. Gross (“Tearing ourselves apart,” Letters, June 23) does not accept the principle of ein shliach l’dvar aveirah, that when A tells B to transgress, B is liable.
Is it not wonderful that, in this case, the Supreme Court has applied halachic, rather than the secular, principles suggested by the writer?MARTIN D. STERNSalford, England
Civic or divine right?
Sir, – Religious freedom is an important democratic principle.
Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox, Masorti and Reform, as well as Israeli citizens of every religion, must have the right to practice religion as they see fit.
The ultra-Orthodox sincerely believe that God wants them to do what their rabbis tell them to do. It is their religious right to allow their rabbis to interpret Jewish tradition for them. But in a democracy, their rabbis cannot be allowed to interpret Jewish tradition for others or to make public policy.
In the recent Emmanuel Beit Ya’acov girls school controversy (“Arbitration attempt fails, High Court to rule on Emmanuel mothers’ imprisonment,” June 22), the haredi protesters are angry because they believe the High Court showed disrespect for their rabbis. In return, the haredim are showing disrespect for the rule of any law other than their own. But their rabbis’ opinions cannot take precedence over the laws of Israel.
The parochial standards of the haredi community do not constitute universal standards. Their mass demonstrations must not be allowed to influence public policy. In addition, it is unacceptable that Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) would use his office and government resources to lead a protest against a ruling of the High Court.
Mainliners, come back!
Sir, – The mainline denominations of Protestant Christianity that are now attacking Israel (“Moral lapses in the church,” Editorial, June 22) have, spiritually speaking, lost their way.
Their current rejection of Israel is just a symptom.
It started some decades ago when they first rejected the Bible.
In their vain quest to be, above all else, modern and socially relevant, they cast away the inconvenient moral “constraints” that at one time fed, guided and truly empowered them.
Without that moral compass they are now adrift in a sea of moral ambiguity. They can’t distinguish between the brave (e.g., Israel) and the brutal (e.g., those out to destroy it).
My earnest prayer for these errant and lost Christian brethren of mine is that they would once again open the dusty covers of their once-treasured copies of the Tanach and the New Covenant and heed the unchanged instructions within. Until then, they will be little more than Christian-flavored social clubs lacking all spiritual power and moral relevance.
As they say here in the Middle East, the dogs bark and the caravan moves on.
President, Covenant Alliances Jerusalem
Complementary workshops
Sir, – I wish to thank Ruth Eglash for an excellent article (“Jerusalem conference to advocate compulsory pre-marital training,” June 22).
However, I would like to clarify an important point. In no way would I discredit the holy work of the rabbis and rebbetzins and the chatan/kallah (groom/bride) classes they so diligently teach.
Quite the contrary.
I trained as a kallah teacher at Midreshet Emunah and unequivocally state that there is no substitute for the separate learning of the bride and groom. It is essential in that it provides the “why” to marry while explaining the sanctity of the laws of purity and the seriousness of the marital bond.
The educational and experiential couples’ workshops of Bechirat Halev are designed to provide the next step in preparing “nearlyweds” and newlyweds for their life journey together, and complement the chatan/kallah classes. The workshops promote discussion while teaching effective communication between the two. In the workshops, couples gain the vital skills to help build and sustain a strong and lasting marriage.
We would like couples workshops to be a pre-requisite to marriage. In countries around the world where they are required, the divorce rate has been reduced significantly.
Co-founder, Bechirat Halev (Choice of the Heart) Jerusalem
Larry and me
Sir, – I have long been among Larry Derfner’s most outspoken critics. I was therefore shocked to find myself in close agreement with his recent comments (“Dodo birds vs. Hamas,” June 17).
The great danger in lifting the Gaza blockade (other than, of course, the potential free flow of arms) is that it would strengthen Hamas’s political standing immeasurably while significantly weakening the PA. We may not be madly in love with Abbas and Fayyad, but they are infinitely better than the alternative in Gaza.
While maintaining the blockade, Israel needs to take bold steps in dealing with the PA. It must do everything possible to reach an accommodation that meets the Palestinians’ legitimate interests and maintains Israel’s own security.
One can quibble with the details of Derfner’s proposed settlement (e.g., international custody over the “holy basin”), but that is no excuse to avoid talking about all of the important issues as soon as possible. That’s what negotiations are for.
The government cannot just hunker down and assume that the present international furor will pass. It has to get out in front and show it will act peacefully when dealing with reasonable Palestinian leadership. If the PA is unwilling to negotiate in good faith, it will become apparent soon enough.
In order to successfully rehabilitate its standing in the world, Israel must not only do good, it must be seen to be doing good.
Don’t fear fallout
Sir, – Daniel Doron is right to criticize Israeli politicians and strategists who, on the one hand, understand that Palestinian leaders are not peacemakers while, on the other, pursue policies designed to find “solutions that will be acceptable to both parties” (“When concepts trump reality,” June 14).
Several Israeli prime ministers have spoken against negotiations with the PLO, the necessity of retaining the Jordan Valley, the inadvisability of unilateral concessions, the unacceptability of dividing Jerusalem and so on, only to have taken, or tried to take, the opposite course once in office.
The precise reasons may vary in some respects from one prime minister to another, but the general rule is this: Having accepted a dynamic of Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, they refuse to risk being seen as wrecking the prospects of peace by sticking with their assessment and principles. In other words, they fear the international fall-out.
Till now, the costs to Israel have been immense, but not existential. However, as Israel’s margin for error recedes with every new concession, prime ministers will not have even this thought to comfort them. At some point, even if Israel’s allies are unconvinced or refuse to be convinced for their own reasons that Palestinians do not mean to live in peace with Israel, an Israeli prime minister will have to conclude, as Golda Meir once did, that “better a bad press than a good epitaph.”
National President Zionist Organization of America New York