May 4: Jewish state

The fact of Israel as a Jewish state is repeated, clearly and unambiguously, no less than four times in David Ben-Gurion's state-founding declaration.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jewish state Sir, - The fact of Israel as a Jewish state is repeated, clearly and unambiguously, no less than four times in David Ben-Gurion's state-founding declaration: "...hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called Israel." There can thus be no doubt that all the states voting to pass the UN's resolution on November 30, 1947 knew they were voting for or against acceptance of a Jewish state. Likewise president Truman, who announced the US's recognition of the State of Israel 11 minutes after it came into being, on May 14, 1948. Could any state that subsequently established relations with Israel have been ignorant of this? Perhaps Israel was remiss in not incorporating "The Jewish State" appellation into its official letterhead as a permanent sub-title to the artwork featuring the seven-branched menora as Israel's logo. There's no reason why it shouldn't do so now ("Only recognition of Jewish state will end conflict," April 28). JOCK L. FALKSON Ra'anana Sir, - There's The Islamic Republic of Iran, ditto Mauritania, ditto Afghanistan; and The Syrian Arab Republic, The United Arab Emirates and The Arab Republic of Egypt. So what's wrong with "The Jewish State of Israel"? YOEL TAMARI Tel Mond Sir, - In ancient times, the people of Israel had a kingdom with a shared language and a clear set of beliefs, based on the Torah. In the Diaspora, "Jewish" became merely a religion, and thus one could be a British or a French Jew; but before Zionism many believed that there was no Jewish nationality. The State of Israel simply undid the historic injustice that began in the year 70 C.E., which stripped us of our national sovereignty. It is a shame we have such a hard time articulating that position, and shocking that we are not up in arms at the Arabs' assertion that we are only a religion and not a historic nation - a way of justifying Arab rejection of our right to settle the land of our fathers. ELIE KIRSHENBAUM Beit Shemesh Past 60, and solid Sir, - According to the Talmud (Bikkurim, Yerushalmi), early death was considered a sign of divine excommunication. Living past the age of 60, however, was not so considered. Therefore, when Rav Yoseph reached this age, he made a party because it was a sign to him that his life would be one without divine excommunication. Rav Yoseph would call the fact that the State of Israel has lived past 60 a sign from the Almighty that the state was founded on solid ground - solid enough that it also will not be divinely excommunicated. Keep this in mind should you come across a member of Natorei Karta or any other ultra-Orthodox "Jewish" organization which respects the Talmud but derides the State of Israel's existence as being against the will of God. If the state has lived past 60, how could the Almighty not desire such a thing? RABBI CHAIM GRUBER Denver, Colorado Prophet of peace? Sir, - In the 1930s, David Ben-Gurion referred to Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky as a "false prophet," following the latter's major address to the Jews in Riga, and smirked at this "prophet of doom." Yet had more Jews in Palestine and Europe hearkened to Jabotinsky's impassioned plea for aliya, tens of thousands of Jewish lives would have been spared and the yishuv's population strengthened. Like Jabotinsky, Avigdor Lieberman speaks a language few in or out of Israel truly understand, telling the facts as they are ("The world according to Lieberman," David Horovitz and Amir Mizroch, Independence Day magazine, May 1). Binyamin Netanyahu's proposal to strengthen the Palestinian economy and Lieberman's vision of peace may, in fact, be more feasible than a two-state solution. Far from being a prophet of doom, Lieberman may turn out to be our prophet of peace. ESOR BEN-SOREK Rishon Lezion Recipe for disaster Sir, - Re "Israel's rights... and wrongs" (Ruthie Blum Leibowitz's interview with J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami, April 30): Like Mr. Ben-Ami, I and countless others, Jews and non-Jews, concur with his view that Israel's establishment and continuing survival and security are of the utmost importance. However, his brushing aside the concessions made by Israel to the Palestinians at Camp David and Oslo, stating, "The only thing we can (now) do is look forward" is a recipe for disaster. One must learn from one's mistakes, not downplay or ignore them. Israel has made repeated concessions and, without exception, gotten either nothing, or death and destruction in return. While it might take two to make a fight, the burden for causing its continuation should not fall on the side that made concessions, but on the one that rejected them. If Mr. Ben-Ami really cared about Israel and the Palestinians, perhaps he'd work for a cause that would pressure the latter to make sacrifices and take concrete steps for peace. STUART KATSOFF Tel Aviv Sir, - Jeremy Ben-Ami's arguments echo what some of the more "moderate" PA leaders say - in English. Like those moderates when they speak to a Western audience, he ignores the prevalent anti-Jewish-state invective in Arabic, and the viciously anti-Jewish and anti-Israel diatribes that characterize PA and other Arab school textbooks. Ben-Ami's arguments betray either colossal ignorance/naivete or a thinly-veiled agenda which, consciously or otherwise, aids those who desire the elimination of Israel. JAC FRIEDGUT Jerusalem Sir, - Jeremy Ben-Ami's capacity for unmitigated hutzpa seems to far exceed his ability to think logically. He does not permit himself to be confused by the facts. Obsessed by the need for a Palestinian state, he insists on offering this as a panacea for every problem relating to the Arab-Israel conflict. His gross naivete affects his judgment of the rabid Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, leaving him unconvinced of Iranian malice toward Israel, and of the very real threat to world stability. "Iran has been an Islamic republic for 30 years, yet there's been no indication that it intends to invade a nation," he argues myopically. After my valiant effort to understand Ben-Ami's responses to his able interviewer, I suggest he changes the name of his organization to Sesame Street. ZEV CHAMUDOT Petach Tikva Fast work Sir, - Talmudic tractate Ta'anis 21b states that Rav Yehuda decreed a fast when told about a deadly plague among the pigs. Was it possible that a plague visited on one species could affect kosher livestock? The Gemara replies that pigs' digestive tracts resemble those of humans. Like humans and unlike other livestock, pigs have no rumen. Therefore a plague that strikes pigs is potentially dangerous to humans - which is why Rav Yehuda cleverly decreed a fast ("Third Israeli swine flu case reported, but experts say strain won't spread widely here," May 3). MICHAEL PLASKOW Netanya CORRECTION The sub-headline in yesterday's Page 8 story on Natan Sharansky's candidacy for the Jewish Agency chairmanship should have read: "'Without official Israel participation, Jewish Agency is just another NGO,' Edelstein says," and not as published.