May 31: Ethical superiority

There is too ready an acceptance by those engaged in religious dialogue that the ethics of Jesus are exemplary and superior to those of Judaism.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
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Ethical superiority Sir, - While I find Jacob Neusner's approach refreshingly honest in its move away from the conventional "We are all good" attitude to a real discussion of differences between the teachings of Jesus and those of the Torah; and while admitting that I have not read his book A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, the tone of "My argument with the pope" (May 30) made me suspect that Neusner is omitting, either out of courtesy or for more serious theological reasons, what I consider to be the main issue. There is too ready an acceptance by those engaged in religious dialogue, and by secularists as well, that the ethics of Jesus are exemplary and superior to those of Judaism. I hope that in his discussions with the pope Neusner will claim that the doctrines of "turning the other cheek," "loving your enemy," "only one door to salvation," and "eternal punishment for rejecting that door" are inferior to Jewish ethics. Turning the other cheek encourages cruelty. Loving the enemy is either hypocrisy or inanity. Claiming one door to salvation is intolerance and moral arrogance. Eternal punishment, not for moral crimes but for theological error, is unacceptable. JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem 'Battered nation' Sir, - In "Battered nation syndrome" (May 30) Michael Freund could have gone one step further. It is time we as a nation stated the following: We want peace, which means relations between us and any of our neighbors being similar, for example, to those between the US and Canada - namely, improving the lives of all concerned as well as those of the rest of humanity. Those who started past wars with us and lost land should never expect to see it returned. War is not a game in which you "Return to Go" every time you lose. And if you try again and lose, and we have no need for the territories conquered, we will fill them with refugees from the Congo and other areas where people are fleeing from radical Islam. In general these people seek "life, liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness" and are not out to make the rest of the world subservient to them. And we could use good neighbors. A "battered nation" needs strong medicine and a means of restoring to it the lost respect of all nations. SAM LOTTNER Petah Tikva No stone unturned Sir, - It is sad that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah's armed wing have started a war which none of them can hope to win but which will rather cause more suffering to the Palestinians. I would advise the Israeli government to handle these terrorists gloves-off until all of them have been eliminated. Leave no stone unturned! He who starts a war must bear the consequences ("Sderot schools reopen but students stay away," May 29) PHOEBE TURIGYE Kampala, Uganda Pathetic to Pollard Sir - "Victim of a unique and visceral hatred" by Morris Pollard and David Kirshenbaum (May 30) and "'Make Pollard pay'" (Letters, May 29) portray the extent of the double standard enacted by the US, specifically the State Department, in the cruel and merciless treatment of Jonathan Pollard. But it should be recognized that Pollard has not only suffered at the hands of the US. Israel, the country for whom he spied, has been served by various governments who showed him unjust contempt by not recognizing his case as a priority item. Israeli establishment figures played a major role in the release of South African Denis Goldberg in February, 1985. Goldberg, unlike Pollard, was a Jewish communist and not a Jewish Zionist. In fact, his Jewishness was hardly visible. His embrace of Marxism, support of the PLO, acts of terrorism and anti-Zionism did not hinder people like president Chaim Herzog, MK Avraham Katz-Oz, Herut Lapid and Ambassador Eliahu Lankin from mounting a massive campaign to obtain his release. The pathetic present-day Israeli response to redeeming the "too-Jewish" captive Pollard can only be attributed to a confused sense of democracy, an obsession with contemporary liberalism, and "looking good" to the goyim. ALEX ROSE Bet Shemesh Israeli-Arab rapport Sir, - Kudos to Larry Derfner for bringing a very important subject to the fore ("Island of equality," UpFront, May 25). I would have liked the sub-headline to be something like "Doctors without borders." The hospital nurses also are so professional and kind to all patients. I witnessed all that during weeks spent at Hadassah Ein Kerem, both in the ICU and the general neurosurgery ward. There was a wonderful rapport between the families of the Arab and Jewish patients - and it just goes to show that people can put differences aside, if they so wish. VICKY SCHER Jerusalem Who's a moderate? Sir, - I hate to disillusion Seth Freedman ("The other side of the story," UpFront, Books, May 25), but the Aksa Martyrs Brigades are in fact Fatah gunmen, affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement. Apparently Matt Rees faces some fiction-writing competition from Ehud Olmert and Condoleezza Rice, who both have a fixed idea of Mr. Abbas as a moderate. AHARON ROSENBAUM Petah Tikva There's wishful thinking... Sir, - Re "War and peace don't go together" (UpFront, May 17): Does Naomi Chazan really believe that the woman killed in Sderot by a Hamas missile could have been spared if the Israeli government had "negotiated" with those Islamic fanatics? HAROLD WEISSLER Teaneck, New Jersey ...and there's reality Sir, - Kudos to Sarah Honig for "Pardon us for living" (UpFront, April 19). We rarely hear the real history of the failed Arab attempt to massacre the entire Jewish presence in Israel. "Pardon us for being Israelis, for founding a Jewish state and defending it despite incessant efforts to annihilate or drive us out." The Palestinian nakba (catastrophe) was a direct result of the Palestinian and Arab leadership's refusal to accept the two-state solution offered by the UN in 1947-48. In the process of defending their lives, the Jews lost 1 percent of their population - 1 out of every 100 Israelis was killed; about 7,000 dead and 1,000 casualties - in the ensuing war. Of all the Israeli commentators I know, only Ms. Honig has consistently identified the insidious enemy of the Jews and exposed Arab hypocrisy and genocidal hatred. AMIT PELES Corona California What sleuths are made of Sir, - Re "Searching for sleuths" by Tamar LaFontaine (UpFront, May 28): The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868) depicts Sergeant Cuff, one of the first modern detectives, who preceded Sherlock Holmes. Cuff is the forefather of P.D. James's Adam Dalgliesh. According to The Moonstone, the modern detective exhibits three characteristics. 1. Sergeant Cuff is eccentric - an expert on rose-gardens - and produces chronic discomfort in those who help him to solve the mystery. 2. He is sensitive to effects around him. 3. The first item that attracts his attention is out of place; hence it resides at the heart of the mystery. Detective stories are somewhat akin to psychoanalysis: In what is standard procedure for the modern detective Sgt. Cuff examines how pain alters reality. This exists in the classical psychoanalyst's use of "floating attention" to unravel reality's hidden aspects. IDIT ALPHANDARY Tel Aviv