November 28: History mystery

Articles in the press and discussions in the media bemoan the fact that Israelis know so little about the American Jewish community.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
History mystery Sir, - Articles in the press and discussions in the media bemoan the fact that Israelis know so little about the American Jewish community. Since 1971 I have been teaching American Jewish history at Tel Aviv University. Over 5,000 students have taken my classes. A few years ago an American donor contributed money for a chair in the American Jewish experience and the president of the university assured me that the teaching of American Jewish history would continue after I retired. I am retiring at the end of this academic year, and no one is slated to replace me. Consequently, the history of Jews in the United States - the largest and most important Jewish community in the Diaspora - will no longer be taught at Tel Aviv U. As so often happens, the eventual losers will be the students. If government ministers and Jewish Agency officials truly believe that knowledge about the American Jewish community is important to the upcoming generation of Israelis, they should invest in university and school courses on the subject instead of merely giving speeches about it. DR. ROBERT ROCKAWAY Arsuf Lip service Sir, - Once upon a time I taught English at a high school in Jerusalem. One of the things that bothered me greatly at the time and still does is the fact that Arabic is not a required part of the curriculum. The Education Ministry doesn't consider Arabic essential, and offers it only as an elective. What arrogance and shortsightedness! Several European countries require English plus another foreign language as part of their schooling. Yet Israel, surrounded by Arab countries, refuses to recognize that knowing the language of the region is the first step to integrating into the Middle East. It seems stuck in a fortress-state mentality - understandable, but self-destructive. Many Arabs speak excellent Hebrew, but few Israelis speak Arabic. How can there be a meeting of minds if you can't speak each other's language? Isn't it time to reform the curriculum? There are no easy solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but making Arabic a requirement would be a small step away from the abyss. REGGIE LANDAU Teaneck, New Jersey Terrible toys Sir, - Re "IDF uncovers deadly stuffed animals in raid on Nablus bomb factory" (November 26): This discovery indicates an absolute lack of feeling among Palestinian terrorists, as such explosives-rigged items could find their way to any innocent baby or child - precisely what is intended. The images this conjures up are horrifying beyond description. Can any cause justify the mind-set that creates such a "toy factory"? In the wake of this discovery Israel must launch a major information barrage in which these deadly items are displayed, clearly marked, so that the West, and even Russia, are made aware of what is done in the name of Palestinian "rights." TOBY WILLIG Jerusalem Friends as enemies Sir, - In "Wise men and rednecks" (November 23) Larry Derfner made two salient points: 1. Jimmy Carter is no more anti-Semitic than Ami Ayalon and Nahum Barnea; 2. Oslo, an outcome of the Madrid peace talks, was a Rabin-Peres government initiative in which James Baker and the American government had no part. Derfner appreciates Carter, Bush (the father) and Baker as "proven friends of Israel" even though they respectively: besmirched Israel as an apartheid state, withheld badly-needed loan guarantees, and said (Baker): "F*** 'em (the Jews), they don't vote for us anyway." This seems to further prove the wisdom of the adage "Save me from my friends, I can protect myself from my enemies." Of most concern is that in our case, "friends" includes some of our most powerful politicians and journalists. TUVIA MUSKIN Rehovot My right to debate Sir, - Re "Lack of integrity" (Letters, November 26): Ian Jaffe accuses me of a "lack of integrity" and "irrelevance," alleging that I advocate the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state. This is clearly a distortion of my views. We saw this twisting of an opposing view all too often during apartheid's heyday, with the shortsighted aim of demonizing one's opponent. As a member of the South African government I support the two-state solution, but this does not deny me the right to remind the Israeli government that in the face of its unacceptable conduct, that option is fast disappearing. As an interested and passionate observer it is certainly my right to debate other options to secure a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If I was without integrity I would not be so open in my views. As to the slur that I am somehow willing to see the destruction of six million Jews, I refer Jaffe to my most recent response in a South African newspaper to vilifiers of this hue. I wrote: "Far from advocating the expulsion of the Jewish people or the destruction of Israel, I have argued that it is precisely Israel's expansionist and militaristic doctrine that endangers its citizens, and that only a just, negotiated settlement between the parties concerned can secure peace and security for all in the region." (Sunday Independent, Johannesburg, November 26.) I have often stated that it is ultimately up to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to work out whether they opt for a unitary, binational or two-state solution. Whatever negative aspersions Jaffe levels at the new democratic South Africa, a country that gave him and his family a most privileged start in life during the apartheid days, we are prepared to provide advice (and, yes, why not criticism?) to those who wish to learn something from our not inconsiderable experience. RONNIE KASRILS, MP Minister for Intelligence Services Pretoria Violence unchained Sir, - I was outraged by the title "Experts: Sela poses 'no immediate' danger to women" (November 27), which can give unsuspecting women a false sense of safety. Benny Sela should be seen as extremely dangerous no matter if it's his first hour or first week on the run. Prof. Zvi Zemishlany is correct that "An escaped serial rapist is like a wild animal who hides." The problem: If Sela is hiding in a location where an unsuspecting woman is present, the likelihood of her being assaulted is extremely high. Research into the treatment of sex offenders is still in its infancy. As of yet there has been no proven treatment for those who offend, especially for violent sex offenders such as Benny Sela. VICKI POLIN Executive Director The Awareness Center, Inc. Baltimore, Maryland Sir, - Reading the words of psychiatrists Profs. Zemishlany and Witztum I found myself shaking my head in incredulity. These authorities admitted they knew almost nothing about this specific creature, yet waxed prophetic about someone who has defied expectation at every turn. This is topped only by the buffoonery of our national police and prison service. JOSH MARK Jerusalem Sir, - In the case of an escaped rapist it is better to be safe than sorry. I'd rather women were vigilant about their safety than have a false sense of security. LAURA GOLDMAN Tel Aviv