March 16: Insane restraint

The enemy attacks with the cry Allahu Akbar! while the poor Israeli soldier is not even taught the Jewish retort El Kabir (Job 36:5), let alone the first line of the Shema.

Insane restraint Sir, - For me, "Rebellion in the ranks" (Cover story, Yaakov Katz, March 9) highlighted a glorious opportunity missed - that of inculcating in young men, during their three years of army service, a minimum of Torah, Zionism, Israeli history and even elementary Jewish pride. The enemy attacks with the cry Allahu Akbar! while the poor Israeli soldier is not even taught the Jewish retort El Kabir (Job 36:5), let alone the first line of the Shema. In 1995 prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and education minister Shulamit Aloni expunged from the IDF Code of Ethics all references to Zionism, Judaism, Torah, God and even the State of Israel. The code preaches havlaga - "restraint" - and tohar haneshek, "purity of arms," terms coined by the Jewish Agency in the 1930s and advocating a passive policy in response to murderous Arab terror, stipulating that weapons be used solely as a means of defense and that "unnecessary" violence and bloodshed be avoided at all costs, even at the expense of Israeli casualties; and that soldiers should always "feel the pain of our enemies." The results of the code? Over 1,000 Jews murdered and 8,000 maimed since Oslo was signed; 200 paratroopers killed in 1967 in retaking Jerusalem by respecting the "holy churches and mosques"; 350 dead in Lebanon in 1982 for not shelling PLO strongholds hiding in civilian areas; 125 dead in the first intifada from the policy of shooting only if first fired on; 31 killed because of not firing on stone-throwers, and 22 dead in Jenin in 2002 for not calling in aircraft for fear of damaging the casbah; let alone the unnecessary casualties last summer. No army on earth ever held to such insanity. AMNON GOLDBERG Safed Two war films Sir - I enjoyed Hannah Brown's "Cedar's time of favor" (March 9) but was disappointed to read that she regards Beaufort as being "the first major Israeli war film." This means that either she doesn't know of Eli Cohen's 1986 Shtei Etzbaot Mitzidon (English title: Ricochet), or that, in her book, it doesn't qualify as a "major Israeli war film." Shtei Etzbaot was watched in the cinemas by 700,000 viewers (source: walla!-pedia). The title song became an immediate hit and an anthem among IDF grunts. I remember watching the film on video as an 11-year-old boy and seeing, for the first time after years of "Remembrance Day" movies, soldiers with fragile psyches in situations of imminent chaos. The 1986 film was co-produced by the IDF Spokesman's film unit. Could this be the disqualifying factor? To me, it makes the film's critical nature all the more interesting, and sheds light on the unique role the IDF plays in Israeli society. ARYEH LEDERHENDLER Jerusalem Hannah Brown responds: I feel that Shtei Etzbaot Mitzidon, made on the heels of the first Lebanon war, was a film more for Israeli insiders - though it was a very good movie. Beaufort is more universal, dealing with the soldiers' relationships, rather than presenting a particular political situation. But perhaps this reader's letter will inspire people to watch the 1986 movie on video and appreciate it. Disturbing comparison Sir, - Reuven Hammer's "Atheism is not the answer" (Judaism, March 9) was deeply disturbing to me, equating as he did the actions of the Christian Church in perpetrating the Crusades and the Inquisition with the crazed act of a lone Jew. The former were orchestrated by the leadership of the Church and extended over centuries, while the latter was a one-time act perpetrated by a single individual. I am not a clairvoyant, so I cannot say with the certainty of Rabbi Hammer what went through the perpetrator's mind on the day he "cracked." I do believe that he was under great stress, constantly called to aid his friends and neighbors as they fell victim to Arab terror. This in no way excuses his deranged act; but I would expect the rabbi, who is fond of quoting the sage Hillel, to know that Hillel said you should not judge another person until you have experienced the same thing yourself. JOAKIM ISAACS Jerusalem Sir, - Lest we forget, the murder in Hebron was roundly condemned by the entire spectrum of Jewish spiritual leadership, something which seems to happen very rarely, if at all, among Muslim clergy when suicide and other attacks by Muslims are perpetrated against innocent victims, especially Jews. GERSHON HARRIS Hatzor Haglilit Unfair singling-out Sir, - I feel deeply sorry for Samuel G. Freedman's upbringing as a "golus Yid" - so much of a golus Yid that it took him 40 years or more to come to grips with the reality of the modern Jewish state. We who were fortunate enough to grow up and mature in a place like Teaneck, New Jersey, were inspired by rabbis, teachers, parents and friends. We realized early on that Israel presented a living option which would complement our religious idealism and provide a unique antidote to questionable secular liberal trends which pervade our cities and communities in the United States. If Prof. Freedman had done his due diligence, he would have realized that he was singling out the wrong Diaspora community to castigate American Jews (for "playing territorial maximalist... from the safety of Teaneck"). Teaneck probably has the highest aliya rate of any American Jewish community. I would also dare say that they are guided by the Divinity and do invoke His name in their "colonization," and there is no shame in that. The "real-estate fair" was just another facet of the many-pronged approaches this unique community uses to instill love for Israel and growth through aliya, as well as support for all worthwhile endeavors of the Jewish state ("How not to sell Israel to American Jews," March 9). STUART ROTHSCHILD Teaneck/Jerusalem My all-time heroine Sir, - I would have crawled over broken glass to meet her if I'd known that Allison Pearson was in Israel ("Making things work," Books, March 9). She is my most admired contemporary novelist and I've bought her book for myself, my daughters, and in Hebrew for my daughters-in-law. I have laughed and cried with every exploit of her heroine Kate Reddy in I Don't Know How She Does It. Although my life is easier now, every chapter got a "Been there, done that!" reaction as I remembered what it was like trying to balance a professional life, a marriage, a limited budget and four young children; and now I see the young women in my family doing the same thing. There is a huge price to pay when you juggle all those demands, and the author didn't put a foot wrong in recounting Reddy's strategies and emotions. I was delighted to learn that Pearson has written another novel, and also that there will be a movie. When I first read I Don't Know How She Does It I wrote to let the author know that this was the book I wished I'd written. She was in Israel for 42 hours - and in California for 24 hours - and I still don't know how she does it; but I am her number-one fan. DVORA WAYSMAN Jerusalem Sir, - Reading Amanda Dan's article about Allison Pearson's book and absorbing her "Top 10" tips for work-life balance reminded me of something I heard from my son-in-law. With remarkable insight he reworded one of the pearls of wisdom from Ethics of the Fathers: "Who is a rich man? He whose wife is happy with her lot." Yes, indeed. LINDA STERN Safed Required reading Sir, - I photocopied Batya Ludman's "Take your foot off the gas" (March 2) for my grandchildren to read. It should be required reading for all new drivers and translated by every Hebrew newspaper. A TV spot on every channel might help, too! J. FISCHER Michmoret CLARIFICATION The photos accompanying "Rebellion in the ranks" (Cover story, March 9) were illustrative, as noted on page 20 of the print edition. UpFront regrets any implication that the pictured soldiers were involved in Battalion 51's recent walkout.