November 6: The true obstacle

I would have thought that incessant missiles, killing and terrorizing Israeli citizens, would be the obstacle to peace. But no, that just isn’t important.

The true obstacle
Sir, – I never cease to be amazed (“US, UN, EU condemn ‘accelerated’ Jewish building in West Bank,” November 3).
I would have thought that incessant missiles, killing and terrorizing Israeli citizens, would be the obstacle to peace. But no, that just isn’t important. Jews building more homes in which to flourish and raise more Jewish children – now that is an obstacle to peace.
Teaching Talmud
Sir, – Please, please don’t throw out the proverbial baby – the teaching of Talmud – with the bathwater because teachers can’t capture their students’ imagination (“Teaching kids to hate Talmud,” Fundamentally Freund, November 3).
It’s not the fault of the students.
Train the teachers! Certainly, “God didn’t create us the same.” That line of reasoning holds true for all the basic subjects taught in school. Would we do away with teaching algebra? Of course not.
The Talmud is such a cornerstone of Judaism – for both law and philosophy – that we would be committing the greatest of evils were we not to introduce students to this sea of knowledge.
Sir, – While I love learning and teaching Gemara (Talmud), it became clear to me many years ago that while educators stress the Talmud and all of the various commentators, the student walks away with either a rudimentary knowledge or no knowledge at all of our basic text: the Torah.
While some Talmud scholars may be able to quote concepts from the Gemara off the top of their heads, they may be equally unknowledgeable of basic narratives found in the Prophets. One subject does not negate the other.
It is high time that school curricula shorten the amount of time spent on Gemara. Make it more relevant to the student and at the same time shine the light on Bible, without which we would not have had a Talmud in the first place!
ZEEV M. SHANDALOV Ma’aleh Adumim
The writer is a rabbi Right of way
Sir, – Greer Fay Cashman (“Nowhere to daydream, Comment & Features, November 3) should visit Rehovot. There are few places without cars straddling the sidewalk and street.
Shabbat is a nightmare! I often walk in the streets, as the sidewalks are impassable.
The city does nothing to alleviate the problem of cars and motorbikes on places were pedestrians walk. And to make matters worse, the sidewalks are in very poor repair.
Daydream? I wish!
Judging Goldstone
Sir, – How are we to relate to Judge Richard Goldstone (“In NYT op-ed, Goldstone defends Israel against ‘apartheid’ claims,” November 2)? It is indisputable that the Goldstone Report was a most injudicious document that was used to vilify the State of Israel and cause it irreversible damage. Yet today, a wiser Goldstone has transformed himself into a proactive defender of the Jewish state’s legitimacy and the justice of its behavior.
But is this enough to warrant our forgiveness? I suggest that the Torah’s way of relating to a person who killed another without intent can help guide us in our search for direction.
The Torah repeatedly labels such a person a murderer and requires that he remove himself to a designated city of refuge in order to be safe from one who seeks revenge, and concurrently undergo a process of atonement.
Even though the person’s act might not have been intentional, the Torah regards it most gravely.
It must be acknowledged, however, that the Goldstone Report was quite intentional in its malicious judgment of Israel.
It accused us of the deliberate mass murder of innocents and other crimes against humanity. It was the product of an enormous ego and a totally biased panel member, and was morally flawed because it listened to only one side of the story.
There remain many who, like the blood avenger, are unable to forgive Goldstone. Minimally, he must persevere in his quest for atonement by continuing to dedicate his legal skills and talents toward the defense of the State of Israel and its citizens.
Sir, – The Israeli government declined to cooperate with the commission headed by Judge Richard Goldstone. It thereby lost the opportunity to state its case, and has only itself to blame if Goldstone received one-sided and incomplete evidence from the other side about Operation Cast Lead
RUTH RIGBI Jerusalem
Sir, – To those who wrote angry letters about Judge Richard Goldstone’s New York Times op-ed, I ask:
1. Did you read the op-ed? 2. Would you prefer that he had not written this powerful piece refuting the Israel-apartheid canard that is fueling the boycott Israel campaigns? 3. Did you notice his criticism of the Russell Tribunal that is due to commence on November 5? 4. Would you welcome additional articles by Goldstone in similar vein or would you discourage him from doing so?
Unwise leaders
Sir, – Palestine has joined UNESCO. Palestinians may now nominate historic and unique places as “world heritage sites.” This places a huge responsibility on them and their government to maintain these sites – proudly, honorably – for their own people, for all humanity. A laudable goal for a nascent state, an ancient people.
Instead of celebrating this as an opportunity for peace and stability, Israel has responded with threats and actions amounting to collective punishment (“Israel to speed up building in W. Bank, halt tax transfers to PA,” November 2).
Simultaneously, criminals in the Gaza Strip continue firing barrages of rockets and mortars into Israel, terrorizing millions of civilians. Instead of condemning these actions uncategorically in Arabic and Hebrew, the Palestinian government remains silent, losing credibility among those who voted it into UNESCO – enabling the most strident among them to withhold funding from that body, and justifiably.
Surveys repeatedly show that most Palestinian and Israeli civilians want to live in security and peace. But the Israeli and Palestinian governments seem bent on delegitimizing themselves and destroying each other. Only God/Allah knows why.
JUDY BAMBERGER O’Connor, Australia
Teaching moment
Sir, – I have no idea how realistic Nathan Lewin’s proposal is (“America should prosecute terrorists freed in Schalit exchange,” Comment & Features, November 2). But the value in education alone would be enormous.
Americans should be exposed to the jubilant face of unrepentant Ahlan Tamimi as she is told that a total of eight children, and not merely three, as she had guessed, were among the victims of the 2001 Sbarro restaurant attack, in which she played a critical role. Her delight is unfathomable to any decent human being.
They should see again the faces of fellow Americans, like Dr. David Applebaum and his daughter Nava, who were killed in a terrorist attack the evening before Nava’s wedding.
These are the people who share human values with which American citizens can and should naturally identify.
The American judicial system cannot undo all the injustice of the Schalit swap and cannot correct the resulting security risk, but the symbolic value can go a long way to illuminating what should be clear borders between good and evil.