October 7: Why a constitution?

Coming from a country without a written constitution, I cannot understand some of our lawmakers’ obsession with having one.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Why a constitution?
Sir, – Coming from a country without a written constitution, I cannot understand some of our lawmakers’ obsession with having one, as epitomized by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (“Between Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak,” Rule of Law, October 4).
I believe that much of the problem of America and American Jewry is the fact that the US has a constitution. It guarantees freedom of speech, absence of public displays of religion and freedom to bear arms. All are well intentioned but open to abuse.
The Jewish community is the first to oppose any public display of religion, which leads to many absurdities. Freedom of speech is also carried to ridiculous extremes, and now some of those who espouse the right to bear arms insist that blind persons should be allowed to carry a gun.
Can you imagine what the nonreligious (and religious) members of a committee to write a constitution here would do to the concept of a “Jewish democratic state?” As it is, the Supreme Court seems to take a delight in contradicting the ability of the Knesset in its right to pass laws.
Israel is one of the few countries in which the Supreme Court virtually appoints its own members.
Any effort to alter these appointments in line with other countries is met with screams of protests of interference in the independence of the judiciary and the right of the judges to appoint like-minded clones.
Our Supreme Court would have a heyday interpreting a constitution in accord with its own political agenda.
London’s JW3 JCC
Sir, – In “Bringing Judaism to the mainstream” (Jewish World, October 4) JTA’s Cnaan Liphshiz prophecizes that the haredi community in London will not enter the JW3 Jewish community center.
It is an unfortunate fact that the developers were not granted permission for parking facilities, and the availability of street parking in the area is practically nil (although the center is close to public transportation convenient for the large Jewish community in the area, but not for haredim, mainstream or secular Jews living in the north, east and south, as well as along the city’s perimeter, because it would take at the very least more than an hour by public transport for a one-way journey.
Just a week after its official opening, it is too early to gauge (as Liphshiz does) whether haredim in northwest London will avail themselves of the excellent facilities and courses on offer at JW3. But I will hazard a guess that London Jewry in general hopes he will be proved wrong.
No excuse
Sir, – With regard to “Caring for our elderly” (Comment & Features, October 3), Israel cannot be proud of the way it has treated its seniors.
Initially, the excuse was that everything had to be done for our children. There is, however, a big difference between the first few decades of the state and the situation today.
The ability to subsist, though difficult, was possible in earlier decades, when the cost of living and services was more reasonable.
In recent decades, though, the spiraling cost of living has made life for a very large number of our aged unbearable, and only numerous projects, such as that run by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, have helped avoid a massive crisis.
We recite in our prayers on Yom Kippur: “Do not abandon me in my old age.” While we owe much to Rabbi Eckstein and others who help us fulfill our Yom Kippur promises, one wonders how long our government can fail in its moral duty by virtually abandoning its responsibility to welfare organizations.
Information, please
Sir, – In “Zionism’s failure” (For Zion’s Sake, October 3), Daniel Tauber writes that the War Refugee Board, established early in 1944 under US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “is reported to have funded and overseen rescue operations for 200,000 European Jews.”
I would like to know where those refugees came from and where they found refuge.
Ours or theirs
Sir, – Regarding “Yom Kippur 40 years later: Beyond scoreboard history and bankrolling settlements” (Center Field, October 2), with all due respect to columnist Gil Troy and author Yossi Klein Halevi, it seems to me that the Israeli “settlers” in Judea and Samaria are just like our pioneering grandparents and great-grandparents who built Tel Aviv on the sand dunes just outside Jaffa.
The Land of Israel includes Tel Aviv, Hod Hasharon, Jerusalem, Hebron, Ariel, Beersheba and Ma’aleh Adumim, among other locations. It belongs either to the Jews, who never quite left even though the Romans evicted us in 70 CE, or it belongs to the Arabs, who migrated here to a barren wilderness after Jews started returning to their homeland in the late 19th century. It cannot belong to two different people.
If it is ours, we should start acting like it is ours and stop contemplating giving up half of it to people whose leaders would love to drive us into the sea. If it is ours, we should retake the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Hebron and Bethlehem (again) and stop cowering before the Wakf Muslim religious trust.
If you don’t think this land belongs to the Jews, I’d recommend rereading the prophetic Rashi on the first sentence in Parashat Bereishit, which we read on the Shabbat before last. It is so true.
Bizarre conclusion
Sir, – Page 8 of your September 30 edition reported extreme violence and death in four Middle Eastern countries: Egypt (“Sniper kills Egyptian soldier in Sinai”), Iraq (“Six killed in first bombing of Iraq’s Kurdistan region since 2007”), Sudan (“Islamists, ruling party members chide Sudan’s Bashir amid protests”; “Will Sudan be the next to have a revolution?”) and Syria (“At least 12 dead as Syrian school hit in strike”). This shows that instability and conflict are endemic to the region.
The president of the United States and others who believe that the resolution of the Palestinian- Israel conflict is key to stability in the region would be hard pressed to explain this bizarre conclusion. The turmoil in the countries mentioned above, and brutality elsewhere, including Sunni-Shia warfare, have nothing to do with Israel. Just as with the Jews in days gone by, Israel is a convenient target for anti-Semites and those who need to transfer blame away from the real causes of their distress.
US President Barack Obama badly needs a victory to offset his five-and-a-half-year record of failure in foreign affairs. Thus, we see and feel the extreme pressure on Israel for concessions leading to a peace agreement with Palestinian and other Arabs.
TAMA 38 and greed
Sir, – I was pleased to see that your newspaper touched upon some of the problems with the Pinui Binui program (“The brilliant Banai family,” Grapevine, September 27). It was long overdue.
Under the so-called TAMA 38 legislation aimed at strengthening structures against earthquakes, if only 80 percent of a building’s owners agree to participate they can go to court to force the remaining 20% to agree.
The intimidation can be really nasty. In one block of flats in Jerusalem’s Talbiyeh neighborhood, a dissenter was threatened with bankruptcy by the costs of defending his right to disapprove.
An elderly tenant was told the building was going to be demolished; the shock could have precipitated a heart attack.
All the worry and anxiety show that TAMA 38 can turn property owners’ lives upside down. Additional legislation is urgently needed to prevent unscrupulous intimidation by greedy owners and developers.