May 23: History counts

I was very moved that President Bush should so openly refer to the glorious history of the Jewish people. And I was saddened because our own leaders rarely do the same.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
History counts Sir, - When President Bush commented that the birth of Israel 60 years ago was "the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham, Moses and David - a homeland for the chosen people in Eretz Yisrael," I was very moved that he should so openly refer to the glorious history of the Jewish people. And I was saddened because our own leaders rarely do the same. Every country teaches its children their country's history from an early age. It is the one thing that can unite all Jews, and it concerns me that in Israel not all our children receive this very basic education. Their country's history helps define who they are, and what their values are. We learn from history what has succeeded and what failed in the past. It is not necessary to "reinvent the wheel" at every stage, whether in science, medicine, agriculture, economics, politics, warfare or peace-making. I hope we will see a rejuvenation of the desire to learn from, and be proud of our nation's history, which began with Abraham 3,700 years ago ("Bush's Knesset speech," May 16). JOAN LEVI Jerusalem Futile idea Sir, - Re the proposal by Limor Livnat and a group of other MKs to "Eliminate Arabic as [an] official language" (May 20): The MKs should realize that Israel will not be made more Jewish by leaving Hebrew as the only official language. Equally, it will not become binational by leaving Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew. If the aim of this political move is to deal with the hostile rhetoric of some Arab MKs and their radical agenda, this is certainly a futile solution. Will these MKs be more moderate as a result? Even if Arabic is no longer recognized as an official language, their extremism will continue to be conveyed as loudly as it is today. YOAV J. TENEMBAUM Tel Aviv Democracy's not for all Sir, - Kudos to Aaron David Miller for his brilliant analysis of "America's elusive search for Arab-Israeli peace" (May 13). He tells the story straight, uncoated with diplomatic niceties. Americans cherish a dream of universal democracy where every nation can have its Times Square and Disneyland, where the freedom to do your own thing takes precedence over community responsibility. Americans, and some Europeans, cling to the naive belief that with democracy, young Saudi boys and girls can sit together in a movie theater holding hands, that Muslim women can remove their veils, drive cars, go dancing, drink cocktails and even cast a ballot for the king's "election." Those who do not understand the Middle East live in a fantasy they alone have created. Arabs don't decide by political party affiliation; they decide by tribal and clan and family instructions. The Greeks invented democracy and the Americans exported it, but failed to understand that not everyone wants it. Like it or not, not everyone wants to be American. Each of us has values, ethics, morality and religious beliefs that may conflict with the American dream. ESOR BEN-SOREK Rishon Lezion Beautiful,irresponsible Sir, - Designed by world-renowned architect-engineer Santiago Calatrava of Barcelona at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels and intended to proclaim the Western entrance to the city of Jerusalem, there is no question that the suspension bridge now nearing completion is a beautiful object, graceful, light and elegant. And yet, something is terribly wrong ("Connecting heaven and earth," Emanuel Feldman, May 21). The bridge bears little relation to its surroundings, coming far too close to adjacent residential buildings, its giant column popping up strangely and unexpectedly from all sorts of places, far and near, contrasting sharply with the mainly quite ordinary and often banal architecture surrounding it, making those structures look far worse. Suspension bridges enabling unusually large spans without the need for intermediate supports were first conceived to enable the crossing of rivers. The first was the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River, tying Manhattan to Brooklyn. But where's the river here? Traffic could just as easily have passed under a bridge constructed in the normal fashion and, most importantly, at a small fraction of the cost. Almost transparently, two important criteria were brilliantly met to win any mayor's support: The project is large-scale and of unusual form, highly visible, and will be completed before the next elections. Needless to say, a much-advertised dedication ceremony is soon to take place, even though the work of laying the rail lines along Jaffa Street, with its associated significant disturbances, has not even begun. Wasting public money is a slap in the face to the have-nots, of which there are far too many living in Jerusalem today. To be beautiful and "good," esthetics and ethics need to go together. In this case, they don't. GERARD HEUMANN Architect & Town Planner Jerusalem Nachum Arbel, living witness Sir, - Arieh Handler is not the last living witness to Ben-Gurion's announcement of the State of Israel ("Reliving history," Abraham Rabinovich, May 12). Nachum Arbel lives here in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was one of the teenagers who carried the flags to the front at the start of the ceremony; in fact he helped set up the art museum for the ceremony. He was also in charge of the young people who guarded Ben-Gurion from the British, and fought in '48 and '67. A true hero, he was a young child when Golda Meir and other founders of the State of Israel met in his parents' home for dances. He is quite old, but still lucid, and a font of information about the time. DAVID L. BRIGHAM Charlotte, North Carolina