March 24: Our own girls

It's amazing that volunteers from the US come and work with the children in need. But the girls we have here deserve equal, or even more, praise.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Our own girls Sir, - While I enjoyed "US volunteers become 'big sisters' to J'lem children in need" (March 21), I feel it must be seen in perspective. Every year on September 1, some 25,000 Israeli girls aged 18 come forward to give one or two years of their lives to their country via the National Service organization (sherut leumi). Many of them are not girls who "grew up in stable, Orthodox families." Many live in the harsh environment that Israel is today. Three hundred of this year's intake are girls who were evicted from their homes in the Gaza Strip two summers ago; 120 live in Sderot. Many more are from places like Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Ofakim, Yavne and other development towns. I think it is amazing that volunteers from the US come and work with the children in need. But the girls we have here, under our noses, deserve equal, or even more, praise. JENNY ISRAEL Jerusalem And then what? Sir, - Prominent leaders and politicians, including Prime Minister Olmert, President Bush, US Vice President Cheney and presidential candidate John McCain, publicly declare their conviction that Mahmoud Abbas is a sincere partner in the peace process ("Cheney: American commitment to Israel's security 'unshakeable,'" March 23). At the same time they admit Abbas is weak and must be shored up with money and weapons. How has Abbas earned their confidence? What has he done? They don't say. In my view, he has done nothing to warrant their confidence. "The alternatives to Abbas are frightful," according to Jonathan Tobin ("American tax dollars at work," same date). Maybe. But this being the Middle East, Abbas might die suddenly. Then what? We need public discussion of plans B and C. In the meantime, let's agree there can't be peace unless the Palestinians demonstrate they want peace. GERRY MANDELL Omer Let's keep our standards high Sir, - Re "IDF probes complaint that sick Palestinians are dying because they are being denied entry to Israel for medical treatment" (March 23): If this is true, as presented, and no important details have been left out, we should be ashamed of ourselves. It is known that ambulances carrying patients have been packed with weaponry, necessitating thorough, time-consuming searches - regrettable, but unavoidable. But the incidents as described by Dan Izenberg are disgraceful. If the parents of the baby with genetic heart disease did not have security clearance for a legitimate reason, an arrangement should have been made on the spot for an escort. And if it is true that a woman's request for a permit to enter Israel for chemotherapy was ignored four times, we are as guilty as if we had killed her. We are Jews, possessors of a good guidebook for behavior toward others. We must not descend to the level of those who have no regard for the sanctity of human life. MARCELLA WACHTEL Jerusalem The way things are... Sir, - Re Manfred Gerstenfeld's "What Angela Merkel couldn't say out loud" (March 20): As much as Merkel and many other Germans would like to prevent new upsurges in German anti-Semitism, she simply cannot be responsible for what will transpire in the future. It will not be long before everyone directly involved in the period of 1938 to 1945 will be dead; and this includes both the victims and their tormentors. When this happens, it will be much easier for revisionist historians to rewrite the history of the time as there will be no witnesses around to prove it otherwise. Although there are plenty of photographs and other material around (the Nazis were excellent record-keepers), the more time passes, the less this information will be taken as actual fact. This is the reality of historical events, even one as awesome and tragic as the Holocaust. But in a country like Germany, where many people are trying to forget what their parents and grandparents did in WWII, history could very well be "rewritten" in order to satisfy the nationalistic norms of future generations. MAURICE PICOW Netanya what I want to know Sir, - Every time I hear that Israel "attacks" Gaza, the story makes it sound like the attack is unprovoked. Here in the US, we have no neighbor shooting rockets into our country. That idea is beyond our ability to deal with mentally. What we hear is that a rocket is fired into Israel every couple weeks, and that Israel responds by blowing up whole neighborhoods. I came to your Web site to find out how many rockets are fired, and how often. I would like to get the facts so I can put the reality into perspective. DAVID C. MUCHA New Jersey Road safety for all Sir, - Re Caroline Glick's "Whither Israeli Arabs?" (March 11): Our organization, Chaim B'Derech Metuna - The Organization for Road Safety, has been working closely in the Galilee Triangle. We have found great willingness to push forward on the issue of road safety for and by the Arab citizens of the area, who are acutely aware of their own road safety shortcomings. We are helping them get support from the establishment in improving infrastructure and implementing projects involving all the population. Cooperation between municipalities, police, the education authority and the non-profit organizations is a first step toward empowerment and citizen safety for the benefit of all road users. ORNA KLEIN Director, Metuna Netanya Water wisdom Sir, - Given Israel's critical water shortage, simple measures like these can make a great difference: • When you wash dishes (and food) by hand - and when you wash your hands - put a bowl in the sink to collect the water, which can then be used for cleaning and flushing the toilet. • Before having a shower, let the cold water run into a bucket until it reaches the temperature you want. Use this water for plants, etc. • Those who prefer baths should give themselves a quick wash before filling the bath, after which the fragrant bathwater can also be efficiently reused. • Those who live on the ground floor can save water from the rain pipes in winter, and from their airconditioners in summer. Believe me, taking responsibility for saving water gives one a good feeling, not to mention reduced water bills ("Irreversible pollution looms at key Israeli water sources," March 21). MIRIAM LEVI Kiryat Haim Boom doom Sir, - It saddens me so much that Purim, which should be a time of festivity and happiness, has been turned into an absolute nightmare for many. I refer to the loud firecrackers that young, thoughtless people set off for many days before, as well as during Purim. They can be lethal to those suffering from heart and stroke problems, but everyone risks injury from them. Close up, they are loud enough to be mistaken for a bomb. I used to love Purim; now I stay indoors as much as possible. Firecrackers should be completely outlawed, then maybe everybody will again be able to enjoy the festival ("10 tips for an environmentally friendly Purim," March 21). TANIA GOLDMAN Jerusalem