May 22: Cheap and not so cheerful

Israeli society must support doctors achieving a living wage commensurate with their skills and years of training.

Cheap and... Sir, - If enough of Israeli society, like other developed societies, supported doctors achieving a living wage commensurate with their skills and years of training, a decent salary without having to compete with American levels, there would be no reason for State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to complain about the way some doctors allegedly break the terms of their employment by resorting to work in the private sector. As long as the government does not realize that NIS 23 an hour is inappropriate remuneration for a junior doctor, my vote goes to the doctors. Nobody in Israeli hi-tech would work for such a salary ("Health Ministry faulted for inadequate supervision," State Comptroller's Report, May 21). PETER SIMPSON Jerusalem ...not so cheerful Sir, - Re "Social services criticized for failure to help Ethiopian olim" (State Comptroller's Report, May 21): In the early days of the state, groups coming to Israel were kept together. There were communities set up of kibbutzim and moshavim. Why can't the government do a similar thing for the Ethiopian olim? They come from an agricultural setting; they could continue that life here, then be fast-forwarded to the 21st century! Just dumping them into high-rise apartments in big cities is not doing anyone any good, least of all the youth. Maybe it's time to turn the clock back and really help these olim. JESSICA FISCHER Michmoret Soldiers' health Sir, - The disturbing findings of IDF ombudsman Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avner Barzani, which dealt with a large number of complaints related to medical issues, indicate that the time has come at last, after 60 years, to make a very dramatic change regarding responsibility for our soldiers' health. To date, doctors can make recommendations only to commanders, who have the power to overrule or ignore them and/or make their own medical decisions. With the major advances in medicine, it is quite inconceivable that commanders should be allowed to decide on medical matters; these should be the sole responsibility of qualified doctors. Sadly, ombudsman's reports over the years have covered numerous cases of soldiers not getting the required treatment, with disastrous results. The right to immediate access to doctors should be rigorously enforced, and any cases where such access is not immediately provided should be severely dealt with. DAVID GOSHEN Kiryat Ono Goldberg's world... Sir, - I'd like to live in Jeffrey Goldberg's world, where Israel can somehow "create conditions on the West Bank that would allow for the birth of a moderate Palestinian state." Unfortunately, in the real world, only the Palestinians themselves can decide to become moderate and to live alongside Israel. Instead they continue to live in their self-imposed catastrophic condition and nakba mind-set of eternal victimhood ("Israel's American problem," New York Times Weekly Review, May 21). STEVE KRAMER Alfei Menashe ...& a phantom occupation Sir, - Elias Khoury's "For Israelis, an anniversary. For Palestinians, a nakba" (New York Times Weekly Review, May 21) stated that "Israel's continued occupation on the remaining portions of Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza... mak(es) their lives a hell on earth." Gaza has not been under "Israeli occupation" since the last Jews were removed from their beautiful communities almost three years ago. What became of the hothouses and thriving businesses left behind? Whose lives have been made miserable, and by whom? SHARON ALTSHUL Jerusalem Gender roles in Judaism Sir, - In "Egalitarianism has landed" (May 21) Avi Shafran wrongly condemns the practice of women wearing a tallit or kippa and cites this practice to explain non-Orthodox men's lack of involvement in Jewish organizational life. Michal, King Saul's daughter, who married King David, wore tsitsit (ritual fringes). Bruria wore tsitsit. Rashi's and the Rambam's wives and daughters wore tsitsit. Lest this fact be downplayed by the suggestion that these were exceptional women, we should remember that all women are exceptional. The halachic bottom line is this: Men are obligated, and women permitted, to fulfill the commandment of tsitsit. Of course, if a woman wishes to fulfill the commandment, she must do it differently from the way a man does, as today's artificial prayer shawl (tallit) is by Torah definition a garment, and men and women need to wear differentiating garments. REUVEN PRAGER Beged Ivri Jerusalem Sir, - In referring to Dr. Sylvia Barack-Fishman's report, which suggests alienation from religious and communal life by some men stemming from "egalitarianism" between the sexes, Avi Shafran raised some real issues. However, his arguments would have demonstrated a measure of intellectual integrity, to say nothing of compassion, if he had at least made mention of the raw deal meted out to so many agunot ("chained women") in Jewish, and particularly Israeli, society. JAC FRIEDGUT Jerusalem Sir, - Avi Shafran and Orthodox Halacha misuse the biological differences between men and women to justify social and legal discrimination. True, we are hard-wired by gender for certain behaviors, as any parent who has tried to wean boys from guns and girls from dolls has quickly learned, but these roles have little or no effect on other areas of life. Rabbi Shafran would not admit US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be sworn as a witness in his court because she has the same legal status in Halacha as a child or an idiot. He would, I assume, not have studied Torah with the late Nehama Leibowitz, of blessed memory, because it would embarrass the community to learn wisdom from a female; and certainly he wouldn't attend a Yom Kippur service at which Hava Alberstein prayed Kol Nidre, since hearing her voice would be equivalent to seeing her naked (Kol be'isha erva). Yet one's legal, intellectual and liturgical life is made far richer by opening it up to the other half of the Jewish people. Hava Alberstein davening Kol Nidre? That could get even an apikoros like me to go to shul again. JOSEF GILBOA Jaffa Sir, - Rabbi Shafran doesn't get it at all. Clearly he has no clue about what modern observant Jewish women are looking for when involving themselves in communal Jewish life: spirituality, equality and connection to our beloved Torah. There is no grandeur, self-importance, or "looking good" behind the motives of women who choose to wear a tallit or read from the Torah. There are women who simply refuse to be kept away from our Torah, which belongs to men and women alike; nor do we wish to continue to perpetuate the wholesale monopolization by men of communal Jewish life. Women are simply stepping in where they've been pushed out and reclaiming their rightful place in the synagogue and the community. May their participation and leadership be for a blessing. ESTI ALLINA-TURNAUER Netanya