March 18: Further asymmetry

Don’t some of us also have the right to some uneasiness?

Letters 521 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Letters 521
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Further asymmetry Sir, – Regarding “PM vows Israel will protect itself even if US objects” (March 15), mine is a plea for a just the smallest amount of heart and balance, and for broader humanity and sympathy.
Of course the rockets should not be coming over. Of course southern Israelis should not be living in fear. Of course Israel has a right to defend itself. Yes, yes, yes. Of course.
But don’t some of us also have the right to some uneasiness? It reminds me of the Mavi Marmara when, yes, Israeli soldiers had the right to defend themselves against people beating them – but how were all the dead on one side? The latest violence started with a cross-border assassination.
Then came the bombs and, as with the flotilla, all the dead have been on one side.
Thank heaven, no Israelis were killed. But why were 27 of theirs? Many seem to think people undervalue Jewish lives.
I don’t think so. I think people feel we undervalue Palestinian and Arab lives and, by extension, those of Third Worlders, brown people and poor people.
I’m not saying Israel is wrong or Gaza is right. Just the opposite: Their bombs are unequivocally wrong, and thank heaven also that Iron Dome seems to work. I’m just pleading for some recognition that they are poor, destitute, despairing, powerless and brown. And that all the dead are on their side.
Where is our broad sympathy, humanity and, above all, uneasiness with the continuing asymmetry?
JAMES ADLER Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sir, – Usually, Michael Freund gets it just about right. This time, however, he misses half the equation (“Putting Israel’s home front at risk,” Fundamentally Freund, March 15).
He says that “the recent round of violence exposed a critical weakness in Israel’s home front defenses... the lack of adequate public bomb shelters, especially in the nation's schools.”
The critical weakness he describes is only half the problem.
Ever since the first Gulf War, Israel has sat on its hands instead of respectably fighting back.
We cannot hide a million people under the table and not strike a decisive blow at our enemies, who cannot be allowed to think that whenever it suits them they can bomb our cities and turn our lives into chaos.
There is a wonderful quote: “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” Well, it’s time to dust off the big stick. Our civilian population has had enough of cowering under the table.
Kosher waitresses Sir, – Just when a person thinks he’s heard it all, along comes “Rehavia restaurant won’t have female servers on Thursdays” (March 15). Why is Thursday night different from all other nights? Because on that night, yeshiva students go there.
The “Hemeishe Essen” restaurant has been in that location for 46 years, and Rehavia has always been a neighborhood for all people. Don’t get me wrong – some of my best friends are haredi, however the haredim and the certification authority are getting way out of line in their demands.
If the yeshiva students don’t want to be served by female waitresses, let them eat in haredi neighborhoods like Mea She’arim and Geula. There are enough neighborhoods that probably don’t have female waitresses in their restaurants.
Let the students eat there and leave lovely Rehavia alone.
Sir, – The Badatz should redefine itself as an (anti-) social movement instead of a kashrut supervisor.
What does the gender of a waitress have to do with the kashrut level of the food? I’m confident the waitresses are not 20-year-old bombshells who will seduce the yeshiva students.
They are just serving that other human drive, called eating.
If I lived in Jerusalem I would begin a drive to boycott all restaurants under Badatz supervision.
Talmudic guidance Sir, – Yosef Landa’s informative and valuable article (“Misunderstanding the Talmud’s concept of modesty,” Comment & Features, March 15) is marred by the absence of two important qualifications.
First, the definition of modesty even in the Talmud varies according to the dress-norms of the society in which people live.
The Talmud refers to the dresscode applicable to the extremities of the arms and legs. In the Middle Ages it was the custom of European Jewry to ignore the rulings in both Maimonides’s Code and the Shulhan Arukh that prohibited the viewing of the female head of hair of both single (“virgins”) and married females, which was considered indecent exposure (erva). This European custom was endorsed by the Torah authority of the day, Rabbenu Hananel (990- 1055) on the grounds that since it was the common practice of single Christian women in Europe to walk around with uncovered heads, the sight of a single girl’s hair no longer aroused unchaste thoughts (hirhur).
Second, the Talmud prohibits the casting of aspersions on the permissive rulings of previous generations of Torah authorities.
The insistence of some ultra- Orthodox circles on the public separation of sexes on public transport, pavement and recently even restaurants is a wholly new phenomenon that was never advocated in modern times.
This over-literal and out-of-context understanding of Talmudic statements is, as Maimonides pointed out (Introduction to Mishna), stupid, outrageous and a hillul hashem that brings the Torah into disrepute.
Something to hide? Sir, – Your March 15 editorial bemoans the “Shocking situation” at the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) and forewarns of another electricity price hike.
Some weeks ago I saw an item on the TV news mentioning that consumers could cut their electric bills by taking advantage of reduced rates during certain hours. I went to the IEC website to look for details but was unable to find any reference to them.
LOLA KATZ Herzliya
Recipe for disaster Sir, – The observations by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (“The case of Syria could prove different,” Comment & Features, March 14) are a list of wishful thinking and do not have real chances, based on what has happened in “moderate” Arab countries like Tunisia and Egypt.
The assumption that a new Syrian regime will cut its ties with Iran is, in my opinion, unrealistic.
Once Iran has spread its tentacles, it is hard to remove them, especially when Tehran is willing to provide financial and military aid to a new regime that lacks both. The assumption that Lebanon will break free and maintain its sovereignty is another best-case scenario that borders on dreams.
The assumption that Syrian society is prepared for normalization is, in my opinion, another dream. If we learned anything from years of knowing Arabs and Muslims, it is that they are not tolerant and will put Islam ahead of Western logic. As many analysts have said, the Arab Spring looks a lot like winter – cold, long and unforgiving.
True, there are Islamic nations that are more tolerant and live in peace with the Christian world, like Malaysia, but the population there is Asian, not Arab.
I think it is human nature to believe that good will overcome evil and peace will win over war, but human nature is most of the time naive and cannot comprehend evil.
Israel should not get involved in the Syrian situation. Watch it closely, be prepare to defend the border, but don’t take sides. It is a recipe for disaster.