March 5: With all the Vatican's money...

Why has the cabinet voted to pay for the upcoming trip here by the pope?

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With all the Vatican's money... Sir, - Can someone please enlighten me? At a time when we have no budget to cover our government expenses, protect our citizens from outside attack or support employment in the North, the cabinet has voted to pay for the upcoming trip here by the pope ("May's 5-day papal visit set to cost NIS 43m.," February 27). While I have no objection to the gentleman's wish to come here, I feel sure that the Vatican has more money than we do and that we could put this sum to better use. SHARON LEVY Kiryat Motzkin ...let's use ours for the important things Sir, - Your editorial of March 1 ("Wrong address") really touched an exposed nerve. That only four ministers opposed the proposal that NIS 659 million be granted for the construction of a new residence for the prime minister doesn't bode well for us mere mortals. I have been in the prime minister's residence several times and never have I been embarrassed by my surroundings. It's a lovely, gracious, accommodating dwelling, good for both formal and informal entertaining. Your editorial spoke about the many areas that we should be focused on, all of them obvious and truly necessary. These endeavors will be slowed enormously, some probably ignored completely, while stone and concrete is turned into a structure that will have us residents and taxpayers wondering what became of Israel. Who would be able to find pleasure in living in such a grandiose house, knowing that those who pay for it must ration water for their children to shower? We live in a desert, after all, but water is nearby calling out to our scientists and engineers to desalinate. Without water, what will happen to our tourist industry, which is so very important to the country? And aliya? Who will bring his family to a country with dire water shortages and the illnesses that are commonplace in such surroundings? The main excuse has been that desalination is "too costly." But spending NIS 659m. on a proverbial palace - and maintaining it - isn't? BEVERLY ADINA BAR-ILLAN Jerusalem Education and awareness are key Sir, - In his op-ed ("America is no Babylonia," March 4), Eli Kavon leads us to believe that American Jews are falling off the edge and that their weakened ties to Israel are a strong factor. I beg to differ. While Birthright and Federation trips are definitely important indicators of one's commitment to the Zionist cause, they will never be enough to combat the onslaught of secularization and intermarriage that is plaguing American Jewry today. The only way that these issues can be combated are with a strong commitment by Diaspora Jewry to enlighten, educate and inform their fellow Jews about the uniqueness and unity that have allowed our people to constantly overcome all adversity. DAVID SAFIER New York/Jerusalem Why reward intransigence? Sir, - In your March 4 editorial ("Clinton in Ramallah,"), you correctly suggest that if the US secretary of state really wants serious progress in Israeli/Palestinian peace talks, she must disabuse the Palestinians of their maximalist negotiating stance and have them adopt more moderate, realistic and pragmatic positions. This would be an excellent and effective approach, and might have some chance of working if Mrs. Clinton hadn't just helped put together a $4.4 billion Palestinian aid package even while Palestinian missiles were still hitting Israel and Gilad Schalit remained a prisoner. Since actions always speak louder than words, so long as Mrs. Clinton is in effect financially rewarding Palestinian intransigence and aggression, the Palestinian leadership has no incentive to change its negotiating positions. KENNETH BESIG Kiryat Arba Pull out or shut up Sir, - It is very hypocritical for the Dutch and French to take issue with the substance of the upcoming UN anti-racism conference but to continue to participate ("Dutch, French rap anti-Israel stance of Durban II, but hold off on boycott," March 4). The United States and Israel have already agreed not to participate and not to legitimize the gathering. TOBY WILLIG Jerusalem Ease conversion process Sir, - Israel's record for dealing with "strangers in our midst" (March 4) has tragically been very wanting. Michael Freund's proposals for dealing with the problem are very much needed and should be implemented immediately. However, to do so requires a great degree of courage and fortitude, both of which are seriously lacking in the government and rabbinate. HAIM M. LERNER Ganei Tikva IB promises... Sir, - Danny Ayalon of Israel Beiteinu is quoted as saying, "No one asked us during the campaign if we were in favor of a Palestinian State. The answer is yes…" ("Lieberman: I changed my mind on PA state," March 4). His claim is incorrect. On my radio show on February 5, when I specifically asked him if through his party's "land swap" proposal he was working to "…establish a Palestinian state," his response was, "No, not necessarily. We are against a Palestinian state….Our idea is peace for peace….The State of Israel will include all of Gush Etzion." And now he and Lieberman are talking about abandoning Nokdim [in Gush Etzion] and other communities? What is it about Israeli politicians that as soon as they are elected they feel compelled to dramatically shift their positions? DOVID GANTSHAR Co-host, The Aliyah Revolution Israel National Radio/Arutz Sheva ...and yet more promises Sir, - Prior to the elections, representatives of various parties appeared country-wide to present their views and listen to what the people wanted. Foremost was the desire for electoral reform. Danny Ayalon spoke most convincingly in favor of reform, and of his party's highest commitment to make this happen. Now, his party, Israel Beiteinu, together with Shas, says it's against direct elections ("Electoral reforms sacrificed on coalition altar," March 3). This is a cynical betrayal of the majority's will. Words and principles have meaning, even in politics. ALFRED INSELBERG Ra'anana Wrong audience? Sir, - I would like to thank Yvonne Green for her informative article "Puzzled in Gaza" (March 3). I would also like to ask Ms. Green if this article appeared or will appear in the UK press, i.e., The Guardian, Observer or Telegraph, because those are the readers who should be aware of the facts. JOYCE KAHN Petah Tikva Enough of these calls! Sir, - I'm becoming unbearably enraged at having my privacy and leisure disturbed by the pandemic of impudent beggars in the persons of commercial company representatives making unsolicited telephone calls to me to peddle their goods and services. No civilized society ought to tolerate this situation. Why are Israelis so soft as to bear this abuse? ROY RUNDS Tel Aviv