March 27: Bussing and bossing

I await the day when haredi purists veil their married women and cover their girls' hair from the age of three.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bussing & bossing Sir, - I must admit that Shira Leibowitz Schmidt made the best case I have read in favor of sex-divided buses ("Black hats in the front of the bus," March 20). Nevertheless, she does not realize the full halachic and related commonsense implications of her arguments, particularly the one based on the male "roving eye." First, any change from a situation accepted without so much as a whimper by previous generations of Torah authorities violates the principle of "casting aspersions on them" (motzi la'az al harishonim). Second, by the same roving-eye token, men- and women-only buses would be a vastly superior halachic solution. Again, on what grounds do haredi roving eyes not lead to sexual arousal when they sight their own, married women's fashionably bewigged heads and expertly made-up faces or the uncovered heads of their unmarried teenagers? The writer's implication in this regard violates an explicit talmudic prohibition that makes no distinction between married and unmarried ladies (until medieval European authorities, including Rashi, made such a distinction based explicitly on the dress practices of the surrounding decent Christian society). The answer is, of course, that Halacha takes account of changing social norms within certain commonsense limitations. I impatiently await the day when haredi purists veil their married women and cover their girls' hair from the age of three, as prescribed in the Talmud and the Maimonidean code. On the other hand, our talmudic sages did rule on a Torah scholar who lacks common sense: An animal carcass is superior to him. ARYEH NEWMAN Jerusalem Keep it decent Sir, - I understand that you are a secular newspaper, but is it too much to ask that when you choose a picture of a book to accompany your article on the new Steimatzky stores, you not select a picture depicting frontal nudity? ("Steimatzky launches revamped 'concept' stores," March 26.) Please try to strive for minimal decency and consideration for all your readers. ASHER RESNICK Beit Shemesh Stunning, amazing Sir, - I listen to the BBC almost every day and am stunned by the repetition of Arab lies about Israel. They have a very receptive audience in Britain, as people have read the report that Israel is considered the worst threat in the world. Wow! They want Israelis to put up their hands, turn their backs and yell, "Shoot" to the Muslims. The BBC chants "Occupation, occupation, occupation," and listeners believe it. I think its reporting on Israel has been despicable. Yet, despite that, the BBC's man in Gaza was taken ("Palestinian journalists, human rights activists protest abduction of reporters in Gaza," March 18). As the Palestinians believe that the BBC airs the best spokespeople, isn't it amazing how they bite the hand that feeds them? SONIA GOLDSMITH Netanya Reality check Sir, - Condoleezza Rice wants a "democratic" Palestinian government to create a peace with Israel. The Quartet wants Hamas to recognize Israel and give up terrorism. But the Palestinians have got a democratic government. During their last election Hamas promised the Palestinians that it would never recognize Israel and would forcibly drive the Israelis out and make Jerusalem the capital of Palestine. On that basis it won a landslide victory. This democratic choice of the Palestinian people therefore makes nonsense of Rice's demand, and proves the Quartet's conditions to be unworkable. So where do we go from here? ("Israel open to Arab initiative - as starting position, not finish line," March 26.) DAVID LEE London Unimpressive name Sir, - I have just returned from 10 days in Israel and read The Jerusalem Post every day. I was interested to see the debate about the name for the summer 2006 conflict. I didn't find any of the names appropriate, particularly not the one that seems to have been selected - the Second Lebanon War. The reason this name is inappropriate is that, as I believe Ehud Olmert and other government leaders said repeatedly during the summer, Israel was not at war with Lebanon - nor with its government, army or people - even though the conflict occurred on Lebanese soil. Israel was at war with Hizbullah. Therefore, for the sake of accuracy and to improve the chances of peace between Israel and Lebanon, the war ought to be called the Hizbullah-Israel War, or some variation of that ("Naming the conflict," March 19). SHULAMIT REINHARZ Waltham, Massachusetts Israel stands... Sir, - Often some of your pious readers cite Saadia Gaon: "Our nation is a nation only by virtue of its Torah" (Letters, March 26). I admit that conversion to nation without conversion to religion is at present impossible. But in the interest of accuracy, and also with prospects in the future of creating a process of conversion to the nation without religion, it is fair to cite an authority older than Saadia Gaon. Kohelet Rabbah (commentary on Ecclesiastes), Parsha Aleph, reads as follows: "What was created for what? Torah for Israel, or Israel for Torah? Was it not Torah for the sake of Israel? Israel stands forever." JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem ...forever? Sir, - If the government of Israel decides to allow conversions without going through the proper halachic channels and accepts anyone who decides he or she wants to become Jewish in name only, then those who want to destroy us will have won without firing a single shot. Israel will disappear as a country and a nation. SYLVIA WEISSMANN Jerusalem Bitter memory Sir, - While on the current Zionist Federation of Great Britain visit, I asked some English football supporters about their impression of Israel. Notwithstanding their reservations over coming here, their overwhelming memory was not the great day they spent on the beach on Saturday or the wonderful meal in the old port, but that their England Supporters Club banner, which has travelled with them around the world following the England team and has tremendous sentimental value, was stolen whilst at the stadium. Sadly, this mindless act will be their lasting memory of their first and perhaps only visit to Israel. NICHOLAS J. DAVIS London Lovely Harrisburg Sir, - David Horovitz's offhand reference to "a place called Harrisburg" was a slight to those of us whose families have resided in the capital of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since the 1800s ("No happy ending," March 23). Harrisburg was the first organized Jewish community in the US. Among the few American Zionist settlers in pre-state Israel were pioneers from Harrisburg, and their numbers in Israel today far outnumber any other American city on a per-capita basis. Even the British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was enchanted by the city. Because of its pristine beauty Coleridge had planned to found a cooperative society on the banks of the broad Susquehanna at Harrisburg. MARLIN LEVIN Jerusalem