June 29; Powerful prose

Sir, - After reading Ruthie Blum's "Moved to tears," I found myself in tears, especially when Noam says, "He is back where he belongs and intends to stay."

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Powerful prose Sir, - After reading Ruthie Blum's "Moved to tears" (June 22), I found myself in tears, especially when Noam says, "He is back where he belongs and intends to stay." I made aliya from LA almost two years ago, and prior to making aliya, I had occasion to meet and use many Israeli painters and movers. After listening to their stories, I would always tell them to go back to Israel, but they were convinced things would get better. Wish all the Israelis living in LA could read "Moved to tears" so they would realize the grass is not always greener and come home. SHARLENE BALTER Beit Shemesh Sir, - One can readily understand the bitterness of the sincere convert Natan Pandolfi ("Conversion and subversion," Letters, June 8), who was outraged to learn that the Talmud compares converts to "sores on the skin" and that Rashi comments that "all Israelites are responsible for each other, but not for converts." How can one explain such derogatory comments about converts, since the Torah states no fewer than 11 times that one is obligated "to love the convert" and "to help the convert" and "to be kind to the convert," etc.? Also, the Talmud contains many statements in praise of converts. Moreover, the Sages chose the Book of Ruth to be read on Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the receiving of the Torah, because the great kindness of the wonderful convert Ruth to her mother-in-law exemplifies the highest moral principles of our Torah. King David was a direct descendent of the convert Ruth. The resolution of the paradox is that all the derogatory comments apply only to insincere converts who mislead the beit dinrabbinical courts, hiding their true intention of not keeping the Torah. However, for sincere converts, such as Natan Pandolfi, our Torah and tradition are filled with praise. Mr. Pandolfi, every Israelite is biblically obligated to love you, to honor you and to be kind to you, because you have chosen to join our ranks. Welcome! NATHAN AVIEZER Petah Tikva Peres for president Sir, -Re "To Shimon Peres" (June 22): Mr. Asa-El's article, in my opinion, stresses the negative far too much. Throughout the long history of humanity, the leaders we have been taught to look up to as benefactors of their country, or of humanity as a whole, have had their less-than-noble traits. These, in times when communications were rudimentary and information was not so accessible, were very often not widely known and were downplayed or ignored by historians, so that only the "good" that they did is remembered. The Scriptures actually do well to remind us that idols, literal or metaphorical, have "feet of clay." In the government of human communities, intrigue is the inescapable accompaniment of the attainment of power. This has been so since biblical times, as can be inferred by an almost random opening of the Tanach. It has been used by almost everyone who has had aspirations of gaining power not necessarily for its own sake, but for the sake of getting things done. A person's achievements must always be weighed as a whole, and in Mr. Peres's case, the positive, correctly pointed out by Mr. Asa-El, by far outweighs the human foibles and weaknesses that are part and parcel of every one of us human beings. I, for one, am certain that Mr. Peres will use the prestige and authority of his new position in a positive way, as demonstrated by his capability of "burying the hatchet" when Yitzhak Rabin was elected. D. MEYER Haifa Circling vultures Sir, - Bravo to Sarah Honig for telling it like it is, again! We are in big trouble with Ehud Barak as defense minister and Peres as president. We must have a drastic change in government if Israel is to meet the many challenges of Arab aggression backed by Iran, namely Hamas & Co. The vultures are circling, and these politicians don't care about anything except their hold on power. This is so ironic because their "power" is nonexistent. Appeasement never worked, and it won't work now. We must wake up and get leaders who understand how crucial it is to be tough with our enemies. Ezer Weizman notwithstanding, the Arabs won't always make more mistakes than we do. MARILYN BENNETT Jerusalem Abolish UNRWA Sir, - If we lived in a normal country, then every Israeli government and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the past 59 years would have demanded the closure of all of the UN refugee camps and the settlement of the displaced Arabs (most of whom ran away to neighboring Arab states and, in some instances, to helpful relatives) in one or more of the 22 sovereign Arab states. Saul Singer's assessment in "Tear down those camps!" (June 22) is correct. It is about time that Israel launched a serious campaign to abolish UNRWA. The failed peace process and obviously unworkable "two-state solution" should be replaced by a 23-state solution (i.e., 22 Arab states plus one Jewish state) based on equality and mutual respect for Arab and Jewish culture. TSVI NOVEMBER Jerusalem Where's Israel? Sir, - Calev Ben-David can declare that the only ones who want and deserve to live in Gaza and Gush Katif are "the followers of Yasser Arafat" (June 22), but that doesn't make his upside-down picture true. What an insane irony that Israel expelled 9,000 Jews who lived peacefully in Gush Katif and begged to stay, even with the bombings and shootings, to instead demand that the "apathetic majority" (in his words) suffer missiles on Sderot, Haifa, and the Galilee. It is not a question of who lost Gaza, but who can't find Israel either in the heart or on the map. TOM HARRIS Jerusalem Number nine... Sir, - "From Berlin to Jerusalem" (Judaism, June 22) referred to the significance of the red heifer. If in 2005, the mere hint of a handful of peaceful knitted-kippot Jews wanting to pray on the Temple Mount threw 3,000 Israeli police (who are amazingly long-suffering with Arabs when they riot) into a frenzy of arrests and baton-wielding against totally innocent Jewish bystanders - not to mention sending the Muslim world into a state of high jihadic agitation - imagine what will happen when the red heifer procedure is restored! The lack of the red heifer is the only thing that is preventing masses of ultra-Orthodox Jews from ascending the har habayit and even commencing the building of the Third Temple and recommencement of the sacrificial order - neither of which necessarily requires the Messiah, High Priest or Sanhedrin. In recent years, several near-perfect red heifers were born in Israel and the USA. But we still await the 10th perfect one. To indicate its significance, the Rambam unusually ends his rulings on the red heifer with a prayer: "Nine red heifers were used from the time the Jews were given this commandment. The first heifer ceremony was performed by Moses. The second one was performed by Ezra. And there were another seven used from then until the destruction of the Second Temple. The 10th red heifer ceremony will be performed by the King Messiah - may he speedily be revealed, Amen, so may be the will of Hashem" (Rambam, Hilchot Parah Adumah 3:4). AMNON GOLDBERG Safed Censorship is good Sir, - What a pity that you printed a reprint from The Baltimore Sun about mammograms when your own Judy Siegel would have written a much better and more informative piece. I hope that the article will not dissuade any woman from having a mammogram on her doctor's recommendation - or worse, deter women from seeking medical advice. In the article, a woman compares the pain of a mammogram to the pain of giving birth, which unless she had a phenomenally short labor is sheer nonsense. Yes, mammograms hurt, but they hurt in four short bursts of about 30 seconds. Injections hurt babies - we know because they cry when they have them - but no mother would deny her child an injection because of the short-term pain and risk a fatal illness. Having lost a mother and a sister to breast cancer, I can assure your readers that the pain of a mammogram, which can lead to early diagnosis and cure of breast cancer, is possibly the most worthwhile pain they will ever suffer. I urge women everywhere to get regular check-ups. Most of the kupat holim branches run clinics, as does Hadassah Hospital, Mt. Scopus, in Jerusalem. Hadassah-Israel, in conjunction with the Israel Cancer Association, runs a monthly walk-in clinic. Ladies, have a stiff drink before if you must, buy yourself a treat afterwards, but get those breast check-ups done! YEHUDIT COLLINS Breast Clinic Coordinator, "One Woman to Another Campaign" Hadassah-Israel Many thanks Sir, - Allow me to thank nearly a score of readers who have e-mailed me about the century-old use of the terms "beitz" and "beitzke" (fem.) in Lancashire. Several have confirmed that these pejorative terms for gentiles of the lowest classes were also in use in Dublin, Glasgow and Leeds. Four readers have suggested a link with the Hebrew word beitzim (eggs), and one writes that before the Great War, poor Irish egg farmers came to Liverpool to sell their eggs in the Jewish area of Brownlow Hill, near the Liverpool docks. But the popular Yiddish word for eggs was always ayer, from the German ei. I still prefer the Yiddish word for a nasty person, beitz, as a source. My thanks, too, for the many reminders of another Yiddish word from my childhood, the more affectionate yaykelter, the feminine of yok (gentile). MEIR RONNEN