June 5: A masterpiece

Yehuda Avner's "Countdown to the Six Day War" (June 4) was the best description of the days preceding the war that I have ever read.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A masterpiece Sir, - Yehuda Avner's "Countdown to the Six Day War" (June 4) was the best description of the days preceding the war that I have ever read. In my many interviews on this theme with worldwide media (mainly thanks to my "iconic" image of the Three Paratroopers at the Wall), I have endeavored to make it plain that the euphoria that gripped Israel was not caused by the victory, but rather by the feeling of salvation from an impending catastrophe. I have never been able to describe this truth or get it across as well as Yehuda Avner did in this piece. DAVID RUBINGER Jerusalem Neutrality is complicity Sir, - Re your editorial claiming that the UK is beginning to respond to terrorism, I beg to differ ("Britain vs Islamism," June 4). There is still strong resistance to increasing detention times for suspected terrorists because it may affect civil liberties - as if that was more important than a street of dead bodies. Instead of arresting preachers who advocate sedition, the government is going to donate a large sum for "mentoring" young disaffected Muslims. Muslim organizations should be asked to convey to their community that there must be an active process of denying all preachers who advocate hatred (some even advocate murder). I have the impression that the Muslim community is taking a somewhat neutral stance on all this. It should be made clear that neutrality is, to some extent, complicity. Your editorial was too optimistic. EDWARD BOWMAN London Sir, - Your editorial praising Britain's attempt to promote moderate Islam was an exercise in illusion. For while there are moderate Muslims, there is no such thing as moderate Islam. All four schools of traditional Islamic jurisprudence define Islam as a supremacist ideology. Acknowledging this is inconvenient. Instead, well-meaning fools expend all sorts of blood and treasure chasing the unicorn known as moderate Islam - the savior that is supposed to ultimately emerge triumphant in Iraq and Afghanistan but which never seems to arrive. Instead of hallucinating, we should be doing everything possible to protect our civilization by taking practical, protective measures such as restricting Muslim immigration, shuttering radical mosques, denying Islamic countries access to weapons and developing alternative energy sources. Let's stop kidding ourselves and start getting real. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont Accuracy is all Sir, - Thank you for your balanced and objective report on the attack perpetrated by young Israelis on two Palestinian youths on Holocaust Memorial Day. It was evidently an uncalled-for act of brutality ("Eleven Jewish teens charged with assaulting two Arabs in capital," May 30). Ideally, bullies of all stripes are tried and convicted in a court of law and subsequently punished. Nonetheless, Israel Television aired the film clip of the attack with commentary that appeared to side-step fair trial. Terms such as "pogrom" and "lynch" were inappropriate and exaggerated. "Pogrom" is associated with the mass murder of Jews, and "lynching" is certain and brutal death. We witnessed a lynching in Ramallah. According to your article, both Palestinians were treated in the hospital and released within days. Their recovery in no way mitigates the seriousness of the attack, but professional news editors and reporters should be wary of the connotations evoked by the language they use. Creative writing is not their mandate. Accurate, objective reporting is. LINDA WOLFF Sha'are Tikva Last-minute piety - why? Sir, - I was a fervent admirer of Yosef Lapid and I am not against Orthodox funerals. But the picture of the prime minister wearing a kippa, the request of the family for an Orthodox funeral, and the recitation of the Kaddish by son Ya'ir - all this produced a morbidity with regard to religion in Israel. We knew and respected Lapid's secularism, and he certainly did things "his way," in the spirit of the Sinatra song played at the funeral. He once said: I do not believe in the God of Israel, but I do believe in the God created by Israel. One can respect philosophical honesty. But why this last-minute piety, this grave Orthodoxy, this religion manifested at the time and presence of death? If we shun the kippa in life, if we ignore religious practices while we exist, what are these "last rites" to signify? A respect for nationhood? An ethnic loyalty? A final reconciliation? Can we live as goyim and be buried as Jews? Can we live as free-thinkers and die as believers? Secularism deserves more consistency, integrity and authenticity than that ("Tommy Lapid to be buried today in Orthodox ceremony," June 2). JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem Teaching English Sir, - If it's any consolation to Solomon Israel ("Close the language gap," May 29), the US is not doing a better job of teaching English to its students than Israel. In fact, the standardized tests required by the No Child Left Behind Act show an achievement gap between socioeconomic and ethnic groups that mirrors the findings of the Comptroller's Report. Most disheartening to this writer, who taught English for 28 years in the US and was a lecturer in the UCLA Graduate School of Education, is the conclusion reached by the landmark Coleman Report of 1964, which called into question the ability of even the best teachers in the best schools to overcome, by themselves, the deficits that disadvantaged children bring to class through no fault of their own. That's not to say schools don't influence achievement. But the difference in average performance between children can be better explained by their family backgrounds. It's time to discard the comforting illusion that permeates so much thinking about the teaching of English. WALT GARDNER Los Angeles Reach out & gather in Sir, - I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the Birthright Mega Event held at Latrun on Sunday night. The amazing entertainment aside, booths provided information (about college and ulpan programs, for example) for the birthright participants. There were also booths selling items with Jewish themes - such as Ellen Miller Braun's micro-calligraphy, portraying themes from the Bible, or Jewishshirt.com's printed T-shirts of famous Jewish figures - and it was these that seemed to attract the most attention. The participants' need for information about their heritage was obvious from comments like "Oh, I didn't know he was Jewish!" Birthright must continue the wonderful outreach program it has begun. Even one lost Jewish soul saved would be worth it ("Birthright is changing the Jewish world," June 4). CHAYA HEUMAN Ginot Shomron Last word on the bird Sir, - How could the non-kosher hoopoe, which coats its nest with excrement to ward off enemies, be chosen as Israel's national bird? (Letters, June 2 & 3). The silent majority votes for our True National Bird, namely, the chicken. Not only is it kosher, it gives us eggs to eat, tastes delicious (when my wife cooks it) and is the prime ingredient for Jewish penicillin, aka chicken soup. And let's not forget chicken schnitzels. We, the world's largest per-capita consumers of chicken, demand a recount. VELVEL WEISZ Jerusalem