May 11: Benedict in Israel

With deep joy, I offer Pope Benedict XVI my fervent good wishes on the happy event of his pilgrimage of faith and peace to Jerusalem.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Benedict in Israel Sir, - With deep joy, I offer Pope Benedict XVI my fervent good wishes on the happy event of his pilgrimage of faith and peace to Jerusalem. The Holy Father is an inspiration and a model witness to the life of Christ. Immersed in profound humility and immense love for both God and man, he has always been a source of strength, encouragement and enlightenment to all men of good will. A champion of the poor and ardent exponent of Christian unity, with his tenacious pleas for the development of a "culture of life" and parallel denunciations of the "culture of death," the German pontiff never ceases to offer fresh hope for defeating the forces of tyranny, cynicism and moral relativism hovering like a dark cloud on the horizon. May the Lord of all graces and Giver of every gift bless Pope Benedict XVI during his historic visit to Jerusalem ("Pope: Catholic Church and Jews share an 'inseparable bond,'" May 9). PAUL KOKOSKI Hamilton, Ontario Sir, - Knowledge of a nation's history strengthens national self-pride. Unfortunately, this is lacking in Israel, which helps explain all the expensive preparations that we can barely afford for the pope's visit ("PA to protect Benedict XVI in Bethlehem - 80,000 personnel to secure pope's visit in Israel," May 7). Rather than Yad Vashem, the pope should be taken to the Diaspora Museum, which traces our history from earliest times to the establishment of our state. This would give him a better picture of the central role his church has played in the long, bloody history of our people, and the debt it owes. RAPHAEL ROSENBAUM Kiron Sir, - Israel is the land through which the prophets walked and gave their eternal message to the world. It is where Christianity began, its founders all Jews living in the Jewish Judea. The pope spoke in Jordan about the Catholic faith's inseparable bond with the Jewish people. Will he, by the end of his visit, appreciate that Judaism, Jews and Israel are inseparable, and that Catholics must work to ensure that the land of Israel survives and is strengthened in a world that cares little about good and evil? If this pope can make such a doctrine an integral part of the Catholic faith, he will have fulfilled his mission as a true pilgrim in the land God cherishes, and he will live in history. TOBY WILLIG Jerusalem About victory... Sir, - Citing WWII as a war America fought for its own national interest and not to save European Jewry from genocide, Eli Kavon raised the possibility that America's foreign policy interests in the Middle East might one day diverge from Israel's. He thus highlighted the fact that the Jewish people cannot rely on anyone but themselves to survive ("May 8, 1945: Day of victory, day of mourning," May 7). RACHEL BIRATI Melbourne ...and mourning Sir, - As much as one shares Eli Kavon's emotions, he seems to have forgotten that the British and Soviet armies too played a decisive and very positive role in the Allied victory in WWII. But for the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US would not have dropped its isolationist position and entered the war when it did; and it was certainly not the American contribution alone that won it for the Allies. The truth is that every country, including the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, that refused entry to Jews trying to escape the horrors that awaited them in the countries sympathetic to or under occupation of the Nazi regime were ultimately complicit in the murder of six million Jewish souls. The 1942 Wansee Conference that planned the "Final Solution of the Jewish problem" was a direct result of that refusal. LEILA CUMBER London Make these racists pay Sir, - Thank you for "Jewish anti-racist activists fight uphill battle with Facebook" (May 8). It amazes me that with some of the best legal brains in the world, we can't find some who will act to get these websites banned completely, once and for all. Only when organizations that flout the law are made to pay will their support for crimes against humanity stop. LYNETTE ORDMAN Netanya What we are, and will be Sir, - As a forgotten human tortured in Iran, it's my duty to thank you for your attention to the Ma Hastim (We Are) group in Iran. "Other voices struggle to be heard in Iran" by Nir Boms and Shayan Arya (May 4) was very important to our future. You see, Persian society and the Jewish nation have been friends for ages and there is no problem between them but the Islamist regime. Please continue to help us. We'll never forget such a favor, and will return to what we were before. NAME WITHHELD Iran Fish out of water Sir, - I read Rafi Goldmeier's heartbreaking "Haredi uncertainty over Yom Ha'atzma'ut" (May 7) with dismay. What troubled me was not his inability to hang an Israeli flag out of his window but his community's apparent inability to acknowledge the hand of God in the creation of the State of Israel and the ingathering of the exiles. Particularly because their relationship with God is so important to haredim, it is tragic that, after 61 years, many still cannot look beyond the secular trappings of the state and see the divine hand guiding Jewish destiny. Nachmanides (Exodus 13, 16) states that the many mitzvot recalling the exodus from Egypt are meant to remind us continually of long-ago supernatural miracles so we will be trained to recognize God's role in "natural miracles," which he calls "the basis of the entire Torah." Until Mr. Goldmeier's community corrects this fundamental flaw, I offer him two modest suggestions for marking Israel's next Independence Day: Recite psalms of thanksgiving, and hold a feast replete with songs of praise and words of Torah. As to his search for guidance on this topic, I recommend Rabbi Moshe Taragin's series called "Redemptive Sketches" ( ADAM KLEIN Ramat Gan Sir, - Rafi Goldmeier has no problem with not sending his sons to the army, nor does he lament any restriction on going to a military cemetery on Memorial Day. But he does feel left out of Independence Day celebrations. In all probability, the haredi rabbinical leadership has no idea why it doesn't mark either day since this has been the case for so many years. That fact, however, has never stopped the community from taking Zionist money. Mr. Goldmeier must make up his mind what he wants. He should have learned that one cannot eat his cake and leave it whole. MATTIAS ROTENBERG Petah Tikva Sir, - Kol hakavod to Rafi Goldmeier. Yes, it's unfortunate that he feels this uncertainty, and we're sure he's not the only haredi to feel this way. I wish I could answer his "Why are we afraid that if we wave the flag we will be ostracized?" but I can't. It is just like the fact that many haredim don't stand at attention during the siren to honor our dead because they feel it is a "goyshe" custom. If more haredim like Rafi Goldmeier spoke up, things might possibly begin to change. HANNAH SONDHELM Jerusalem Sir, - How I pity Jews like Rafi Goldmeier, who does not allow himself to celebrate the wonderful miracle of reborn Jewish sovereignty with the rest of the nation. Haredi Jews in America pray for the prosperity of their country and may even drink a lehayim on July 4, and British haredim pray that the queen should long reign over them - but poor Israeli haredim cannot openly and enthusiastically celebrate their freedom to live as Jewish a life as they wish, including the right to pray at the Western Wall and the Cave of the Patriarchs, all under the watchful protection of a Jewish army. These are not self-hating Jews, like so many on the anti-Zionist Left, but proud, knowledgeable Jews who know all about Joshua, David, Bar-Kochba (and even Deborah). Their rabbis are out of step with their own people, with haredim like Goldmeier, for instance, who understand how proud and joyous every Jew should be on Independence Day. I call on people like him to celebrate like the rest of us. You do not have to dance in the public square - but dance and sing in your own neighborhoods, and praise God for the State of Israel in your synagogues. JOSEF GILBOA Jaffa To our health! Sir, - How refreshing to read Judy Siegel-Itzkovich's informative and sympathetic "Litzman may be just what the doctors ordered" (May 10). New Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman comes across as a modest and dedicated, yet firm individual determined to set an example by working long hours to achieve his goals. May his endeavors to improve our health system bear fruit. JUDY PRAGER Petah Tikva Dinner talk Sir, - "Guess who's coming to dinner?" (May 6) struck a familiar note here in expat Netanya, where dinner conversation revolves almost exclusively around health and grandchildren. Health issues particularly have become competitive, everyone determined to outdo everyone else with details of medication, tests and treatment. (Diabetics are particular culprits.) I have adopted the unpopular strategy of declaring both topics proscribed, but do sometimes make a small concession - the first 10 minutes can be devoted to answering the standard opening gambit of "How are you?" RAYMOND CANNON Netanya Sir, - Judy Montagu is a master storyteller. I'll be sure to include her in my next Friday night dinner party. By the way, I'm the hostess who insists that her guests "describe something interesting that happened to them in the past week." As a device for prompting real conversation, I've always found it electrifying. JENNY WEIL Jerusalem