Sept. 1: It's called 'the family'...

Every culture should have its code of derech eretz and consideration for others.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It's called 'the family'... Sir - Sorry, Shalom Hammer, you are only half-right when you hold schools and educators responsible for the bad manners and lack of consideration of many Israelis ("Back to school - back to basics," August 31). These same teachers and education officials you blame for their ineptitude, egoism and lack of courtesy, and their students, come from somewhere before they attend our school system. It's called the family. You would not be "surrounded by a sea of garbage and debris" at Nahal Kibbutzim, Rabbi, if parents set an example during their nature hikes and cleaned up after themselves. There would be a little more tranquility in Israeli society if we were not accosted on a daily basis by individuals - all family members, let us realize - who honk loudly and continuously early in the morning when they pick up their friends' kids for school; disturb others with their noisy cell phone conversations in restaurants, doctors' offices and public transportation, and blow their cigarette smoke at you in whatever tiny temporary refuge you manage to find from the hurly-burly of life in this high-pressure society. As a newcomer to Israel, I am often told that this behavior is due to the different "cultural" backgrounds of many Israelis. Rubbish. Every culture has its code of derech eretz and consideration for others. The fact that so many are so obviously flouting these principles in our homeland is a function of bad parenting, a failure to transmit good behavior to their children. AHARON MAYNE Jerusalem ...and people can learn to make a clean sweep Sir, - I was grateful to see Shalom Hammer publicize the litter he found on a hike with his family. My husband and I are now hiking the Israel Trail in segments, and although I am happy to say the majority of the trail is free of litter, there are areas that are trashed - usually where day hikers are abundant. The land of Israel is stunningly beautiful: a diverse, surprisingly empty wonderland for anyone interested in nature, wildlife, geology or archeology. It is incumbent on us to care for this treasure, to keep it clean from litter and pollution. Israel has designated 10.5 percent of its total area as protected natural enclaves - almost twice the average of Western countries, and more than four times the average of the countries around us - so please don't think Israel can do no right! However, we aren't always as good at enforcing the regulations that protect these areas. A question: Did Shalom Hammer and his family make an effort to clean up the litter they saw, and encourage the other (dismissive) family to help? For years now, my family and I have taken the time to leave every area where we hike cleaner than it was before we came. We take out everything we brought into the trail, including tissues, and more. With some simple publicity, we can convince people to take a few minutes to clean up our land. DIANA BARSHAW Haifa The writer is author of the monthly Wild Israel column in the UpFront magazine. 'No injuries, nor damage' Sir, - Whenever the IBA News in English reports a (failed) rocket attack from Gaza, it invariably ends by saying "No injuries nor damage was caused." I realize this is to allay the worries of those with family or friends living in the area. However, it can have other, unwanted results. I listened to the BBC radio news this week when it reported that Israel bombed a weapons smuggling tunnel in Gaza in retaliation for a rocket attack from Gaza. The report ended with a repeat, word for word, of that "no injuries nor damage was caused" - clearly implying that this had been just a teeny-weeny little rocket which didn't harm anyone nor do any damage, so why on earth did Israel have to start dropping bombs? We Israelis are not idiots - we don't need to be told that nothing has happened. We are confident that if something does happen, we will be informed about it (""Kassam hits South," August 30). JACKIE ALTMAN Netanya Those gov't subsidies Sir, - "Save our scientists" (Editorial, August 27) raised the problem of subsidizing the pay of Israeli scientists in order to keep them working and producing in Israel. A laudable goal - but why should it be necessary to subsidize their pay at all? Their pay is subsidized because their normal wages, like most Israeli wages, are too low to provide a living. This is because our economy and most of its capital are tightly controlled by the two major banks, the 10 large monopolies, the 12 ultra-wealthy Israeli families which largely control those banks and monopolies and, of course, our-debt ridden and employee-bloated government. Teachers, doctors, nurses, scientists, small business owners and their employees are all badly underpaid and heavily taxed because of this situation. If the government didn't borrow so heavily to pay off its deficits, there would be more money in the system to be paid out to workers as wages, or as loans for expanding small businesses. If the banks and the monopolies were forced to compete among themselves and with other businesses, prices would fall, spending-power would increase, and the competing businesses would then be able to pay living wages to their employees; as would hospitals, universities and other institutions. There would be no more need for government subsidies. But so long as the Israeli government continues to step in and make up the shortfall, there will be no incentive to liberalize our closed economy, and the situation will worsen. More and more of our ambitious and hard-working scientists and young people will travel to countries where they can live, work and actually enjoy the fruits of their labors. KENNETH BESIG Kiryat Arba Judge Goldstone's human rights record Sir, - Unlike Louis Garb's somewhat limited association, I was privileged to have been continuously and closely associated with Richard Goldstone for many years when we both practiced as junior and senior counsel at the Johannesburg Bar. This association continued after Goldstone's appointment to the Transvaal Bench during the "apartheid era," where he served as a trial judge with distinction and fairness for many years. In recognition of both his legal and human rights record, he was later elevated to the Appelate Division and - after the election of Nelson Mandela and the end of the apartheid era - to the Constitutional Court. During his period as a trial judge, he was chosen to conduct a commission of enquiry into the alleged malpractices and acts of brutality by the South African Police during the apartheid era (the historic Goldstone Commission). His findings and courageous, scathing condemnation of police brutality and malpractices had a significant influence on later events that led to the ending of apartheid. It is not my intention here to deal with the propriety or wisdom of Goldstone's acceptance as chairman of the commission appointed by UNHRC to investigate the Gaza conflict. But what is unjustified is the attack Garb launches against Goldstone ad personam, concluding: "Surely it is not the mission which is tainted, but the man himself" - Goldstone as a judge "implemented apartheid law" and thus, having acted as such a judge, he "cannot afterwards claim the high moral ground where human rights are concerned" ("Pliable vis-a-vis the powers that be," Letters, August 23). Both as counsel and later as an acting judge in the High Court, I had need to become acquainted with Goldstone's judgments, which reflect a strong concern for human rights. It was precisely his human rights record as a judge that was acknowledged by the Mandela government in promoting him to the highest legal offices in the country and to his appointment as prosecutor in the International Criminal Court at the Hague for violations of human rights. I challenge Louis Garb to refer me to any Goldstone judgment that shows him to be a "tainted" man. HENRY SHAKENOVSKY Ramat Hasharon Sir, - I have known both Louis Garb and Richard Goldstone for over 50 years, and although I hold Garb in high esteem, I am of the view that Judge Shakenovsky's opinion of Goldstone, as set out in his letter, more correctly reflects the true position. I wish to state, however, that I consider that Goldstone was sadly mistaken in accepting appointment to this tainted UN Human Rights Council commission. M L ROSTOWSKY Tel Aviv Lack of defenders Sir, - Ruthie Blum Leibowitz's interview with Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis contained some interesting observations ("Choosing life," August 27). Rebbetzin Jungreis talked about the Holocaust and religion and "Torah roots," and about what questions to ask. She said we shouldn't ask where was God, but rather "Where was man? Where was education? Where was enlightenment? Where was Western culture?" To all these questions I, and many survivors, including my parents and relatives, counter: "Where were the rabbis? Where were the soldiers and defenders?" The Hungarian Jews had the example of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. "Torah roots" include the stories of Joshua and Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kochba and Deborah and Barak. There was no call to arms by the majority of Jews, and the "Torah" leadership discouraged an exodus to either the West or to Israel, when such action was possible. We've had our state for over 60 years. Rebbetzin Jungreis lives in Brooklyn. Why isn't her main address in Israel? AHARON GOLDBERG Hatzor Haglilit Reasons to linger? Sir, - Israelis, especially we immigrants, highly value our lifeblood of aliya. Ricki Lieberman correctly stresses that we must implement it quickly and well ("Marranos of our generation," Letters, August 31). But I worry that she may have 8,700 reasons for lingering in New York. Her concern, energy and experience would be an asset to us here. E. ZEITLIN Jerusalem