May 5: Oh yeah?

I was interested to note the Israel Democracy Institute asserting that (Israel's) "Jewish and democratic qualities complement each other."

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Oh yeah? Sir, - I was interested to note the Israel Democracy Institute asserting that (Israel's) "Jewish and democratic qualities complement each other" ("The Jewish case for the Israel Democracy Institute," Yedidiya Z. Stern, May 4). I believe any dictionary definition of "democracy" would include the idea of equality; and I believe that any woman who has found herself in a synagogue in which she is not counted in the quorum by dint of her gender would hasten to disagree with the above assertion. ELLIE MORRIS Asseret Anti-slogan man Sir, - The best thing that came out of the last elections was Avigdor Lieberman and his "Drop 'land for peace' slogans and stop Iran" (April 24). SAMUEL BERKOVITS Jerusalem Sir, - To achieve a durable peace like that concluded between Germany and France, it is essential that it be preceded by genuine reconciliation. The onus is on the Palestinians to abstain from terrorist activity, stop their vicious incitement and vilification of Israel and, primarily, acknowledge the legitimacy of Jewish rights to this land as the League of Nations, the UN - and, indeed, all the powers did. The essence of the conflict is not territory, but ideology, and without a basic change of heart, I see little chance for its resolution. This requires long-term education. Quick solutions invite failure. Finally, UN resolutions 242 and 388 prescribed Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories - not all territories - to recognized and secure borders. The Palestinians adamantly endeavor to bypass this reservation, to the detriment of Israel's security. The US must be wary of giving a hand to this Palestinian effort. It would render all peacemaking efforts stillborn. ISAIAH FRIEDMAN Emeritus Professor of History Ben-Gurion University Beersheba Powerful message Sir, - In his very defeatist "Learning to live with The Bomb" (April 30), Larry Derfner overlooked one very important factor. President Obama has made it clear that his first priority is to deal successfully with the US economic crisis, and not only stop the recession but give new life to the American economy. A nuclear Iran making important inroads in the Middle East would put an end to such recovery. I am one of those who truly believe the president when he says he will put an end to Iran's nuclear ambitions. If Iran is not open to compromise, then Obama has the option of putting its nuclear program back at least 10 years via military strikes. The president's job is to convince the Iranian authorities that he would prefer not to use the military option; but that it is, and will remain, on the table. His lesson: Don't cross the most powerful person in the modern world and think you can get away with it. P. YONAH Shoham New Poland, and... Sir, - Can't we be without anti-Polish cliches? There it was again in a reader's letter ("Vital link," May 1), when the writer mentioned her grandfather telling her that "the Poles were the worst anti-Semites," and that these words stayed with her constantly when she paid a daylong visit to Auschwitz in 2004. Did she not know that Auschwitz was one of several German death camps in which Jewish Poles, Catholic Poles and Communist Poles, etc., died? She most likely did, but was overwhelmed by grief. In another recent article, someone described that after walking from Auschwitz in the March of the Living, he noticed Poles looking on and saw only chilling anti-Semitism. Perhaps these people were just curious? Understandably, many people visiting Auschwitz become psychologically conditioned and see everything through persecution-eyes. Why not mingle a little directly with the people and meet some surprising welcome and hospitality? It is there! Should one not also remember and respect the fact that 8,405 Poles (last year's figure) have been honored by Yad Vashem for saving Jews while risking their own lives during the Shoah? No other country came even close to such a number. Today, the timid or concerned will not travel through certain European countries wearing a kippa or Star of David. I could mention main cities in Western Europe where one would be spat on, if not physically attacked, if recognized as a Jew. But in Poland, people will most likely start a conversation and tell you they remember their good Jewish neighbors from before World War II. It is a new Poland today, one which welcomes the rebirth of vibrant Jewish life and sends its top government leaders to Israel to promote bilateral friendship. HILLEL GOLDBERG Jerusalem ...a better understanding Sir, - I was pleased to read your take that Poles and Jews are getting closer after the years of Nazi and later communist occupation of Poland ("Thoughts on May 3," Laurence Weinbaum, May 3). But it would please me even more if Jews realized that before the horrors of the 20th century, Jews and Poles did, for the most part, get along. That's why Jews immigrated to Poland in the first place. Our histories are intertwined. In fact, the Jews supported the uprising of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and even started a wholly Jewish cavalry under Berek Joselewicz to challenge czarist Russian rule in Poland. The phrase "For Your Freedom and Ours," coined by Joachim Lelewel, originally came from a letter Kosciuszko wrote to the Russian clergy during the uprising against Czarina Catherine, in which he wrote, "Join your hearts with the Poles, who defend our freedom and yours." Lelewel turned this phrase around. During that uprising, Kosciuszko went to the Jewish quarter in Kazimierz and walked into Krakow's Old Synagogue on Szeroka Street to ask Rabbi Hirsch David Lewi and his congregation to support the uprising, which they ultimately did. It is good that Jews and Poles reexamine their past to come to a better understanding of each other; but to do so, we must also examine what we have in common. ALEX STOROZYNSKI West Orange, New Jersey The writer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of 'The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution.' Holidays behind bars Sir, - Rafael Medoff's "Pessah in Acre Prison" (Pessah supplement, April 8) was the finest Pessah present ever. The photo of Matityahu Schmuelewitz, Shimon Amram, Peleg Tamir and Josef "Hayemani" stirred up a lot of memories. I too was in Acre at that time, 62 years ago; then later in Jerusalem, and in Atlit, from where I escaped. It was my 13th attempt at a jailbreak. Mati, Josef and I were Lehi - not that it matters anymore. The photo and article reminded me of long-ago holidays behind bars, and I wonder how many of those in the photo are still alive. Thanks for remembering. PETER BOAZ DORRAM (aka PETER MARTOS) Bloomingdale, New Jersey Not forgotten Sir, - Re "'It's time they knew our names'" (UpFront, April 16): Please thank Stacey Menchel for this article on Sephardi Holocaust victims. It has meant a great deal to my family to see our story publicized. Our entire community, its culture and language were wiped out during the Shoah. We had thought ourselves forgotten. ILLANA BARKEY (BARCHI) New York