May 14: Irreligious excesses

Tuesday's horrific accident in the Jordan Valley, should act as a wake-up call to the rabbinical authorities so revered by the Meron pilgrims.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Irreligious excesses Sir, - Re "5 killed in Jordan Valley car crash" (May 13): Tuesday's horrific accident in the Jordan Valley, caused by an irresponsible Lag Ba'omer celebrant - along with the youth binge-drinking and usual casualties of Israel's bonfire night - should act as a wake-up call to the rabbinical authorities so revered by the Meron pilgrims. These authorities should issue a stern warning against the irreligious excesses that accompany this mass celebration. They might remind their constituents of the halachic misgivings voiced by a number of Torah authorities about the way Lag Ba'omer is celebrated. It is unrealistic to imagine that such a popular folk festival - which like the bonfire fests that feature in all cultures probably dates from an ancient fire-worshipping cult - could be outlawed by rabbinic fiat. But the rabbis' authority might be exercised to suggest to their more thinking adherents that the Lag Ba'omer bonfire fest is perhaps in danger of degenerating into the "strange fire which the Lord has not commanded" (Leviticus 10,1-2), which led to the deaths of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu. ARYEH NEWMAN Jerusalem Financial crime & the law Sir, - The fortunes of the "grey market" have been dramatically improved by the current very difficult economic reality in which many citizens suddenly find themselves in need of financing. This market, an area in which the underworld community is very active, has no legal limit on the interest or finance charges extracted from such helpless citizens. It has, moreover, very creative methods of collecting from its clients and solving disputes ("Petah Tikva currency changer shot dead in drive-by," May 13). The state comptroller made it very clear in his recent report that the police gets no serious help from the tax authorities in attacking underworld financial crime. The decision many years ago to cancel ceilings on interest and finance charges in the grey market was very unwise; stringent limits should immediately be reintroduced. The government would be also well advised to search outside the existing tax organizations for suitable candidates to fight underworld financial crime. We have many brave citizens - ex-army, -security services, etc., - who could handle the challenge of coping with the booming underworld community. The pay could be very high, and justifiably so, considering the multi-millions in taxes lost to the treasury each year. DAVID GOSHEN Kiryat Ono B-G's attitude to women Sir, - Further to "Ben-Gurion blogs from beyond the grave" (Mel Bezalel, May 13): I offer, from the State Archives, my translation of the following letter written by prime minister David Ben-Gurion on May 5, 1953: "To the Finance Minister: I was somewhat offended today by the Employee's Declaration for the Purpose of Calculating Tax Deduction (hatzharat ha'oved(et) ). "Paragraph 4 of the declaration says "ba'ali/ishti (my husband/my wife). In my opinion, it should say "ishi/ishti" (my man/my wife). "The word ba'al connotes dominance and idol worship and is unbefitting to the dignity of Woman, who is completely equal in her rights to Man. "Do as the prophet Hosea says: 'And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me ishi, and shalt no more call me ba'ali' (Hosea 2,18). "Yours faithfully, D. Ben-Gurion." RUTH RIGBI Israel Association of University Women Jerusalem 'Older sister' speaks out Sir, - You know this "Elder Brother" stuff - that we, the Jewish people, are the elder brother of Christianity? That the Church recognizes us as such is all well and good. But speaking as an "older sister" (retired, sort of), it was a real pain to drive home from work on Tuesday. Instead of my usual 20-minute trip, it took 70 minutes. (Think about the gasoline wasted and the exorbitant charges for those forced to take cabs - not to speak of nerves frayed or shot.) Let's agree that all of this stress is more or less OK when we have an important visitor here. But to completely close off the Jewish Quarter so that children cannot even walk out of their homes to get to school is beyond the pale. My son described it as being "a prisoner in his own space." What's fair for those of us who live in Israel's wondrously beautiful capital city? RUTH RACKOVSKY Jerusalem Black & white Sir, - Steve Linde's ("What about Benedict and Ahmadinejad?" May 11), about Time magazine's "most influential people" list, would have given me more pleasure had it not been used by Linde as a platform to vent his spleen against Conrad Black, who, we were told, once owned The Jerusalem Post and made damaging staff cutbacks. Linde's comment that it had been "an unusual pleasure to watch Black go to jail" was not only unpleasant to read but inappropriate. Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel, always showed a great love for Israel and were important and influential supporters of our country in former days, when they held positions of power. The Daily Telegraph, under Black's ownership, published countless excellent pro-Israel editorials, while Amiel's brilliant articles giving in-depth coverage of Israel and its difficulties showed a perfect understanding of our country. Black and Amiel were a courageous couple since taking a strong pro-Israel line abroad has never been a popular position in the world. His fall from grace was a tremendous blow to those of us who are grateful for the couple's support of Israel - and to Israel itself. Quit showing your pique, Mr. Linde. RHONA YEMINI Givatayim Sundays off... Sir, - "Israel needs time off" (Danny Landes and Sheryl Robbin, May 13) was an excellently reasoned article on why Israel needs a "Sunday." However, it will suffer from the typical Israeli malady of "There's nothing to be done." You can point out that Israel can still have a 40-hour work week by keeping offices open 8:30-5:30 Monday-Thursday and 8:30-12:30 on Fridays; that companies like Bank Leumi already close on Sundays; that a significant number of religious youngsters drop observance because of the Shabbat-only weekend. You can point out how Sunday would make life enjoyable for the national religious community. But the answer will always be, "You're right, but there's nothing to be done." If the remnants of the National Religious Party in Habayit Hayehudi wanted to make a contribution to Israeli society, they'd work on this issue instead of the settlements. DAVID GLEICHER Jerusalem ...great idea! Sir, - Ever since coming on aliya in 1972, what I've missed most is Sundays. So I agree wholeheartedly with the writers. Barring that, I think their idea about Rosh Hodesh is fantastic. TAMAR H. KAGAN Jerusalem Sir, - Let me guess: About 80 percent of Jerusalem Post readers would vote for Sundays off. The only problem: Who in government would care? M. HAGENAUER Jerusalem