September 2: Remembering Mike Ronnen

I will remember him for the high professional standards he set for himself, expecting the same from those who worked with him.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Mike Ronnen Sir, - I will remember Meir (Mike) Ronnen with gratitude and deep respect. In 1985, as Arts editor of The Jerusalem Post and at the height of his influence at the paper, he gave me a job, joining the team of art critics (Ronnen and Gil Goldfine) which would for a further 20 years deliver a two-page weekly coverage of the local art scene. Nurtured by Mike, I came to appreciate not only the breadth and accuracy of his knowledge in a great many fields, but also his integrity, his refusal to court cheap popularity by writing positively about artists whose work he could not bring himself to admire. Above all, I will remember him for the high professional standards he set for himself, expecting the same from those who worked with him ("Meir Ronnen, 1926-2009," August 31). ANGELA LEVINE Ra'anana Sir, - I spent a lot of time around the Post newsroom in the 1980s and frequently saw Meir Ronnen granting court to editors and writers. He seemed to know everything. I once got lucky and found in an Israeli magazine a photo of a young soldier in Jerusalem in 1949 or 1950. Some old-timer at the paper said, "Show it to Mike." Timidly, I went up to him with the picture. He glanced at it briefly, then swept it up and left quickly, shouting back to me: "Thanks - that soldier is me!" DAVID GEFFEN Jerusalem Guy von Dardel's search for Raoul Sir, - Holocaust survivors and admirers of the lost hero of the Holocaust, Raoul Wallenberg, were greatly saddened to hear of the death in Geneva of Raoul's half-brother, Guy von Dardel, at the age of 90. He spent much of his life in a vain search for Wallenberg and for clues to his mysterious fate. In the course of his research, he complied a vast amount of documentation, but unfortunately, despite many visits to Russia, he was unable to unearth definitive evidence about Raoul's fate. His daughters, Louise and Marie, gave him great support in his search activities. They will carry on his work, together with the Jerusalem Working Group for Recognition of Leading Rescuers during the Holocaust and other Wallenberg organizations, until the truth of what really happened to the Swedish diplomat who saved 100,000 Jews in Budapest in 1945 - only to disappear into the Soviet Gulag - becomes known. DAVID HERMAN Jerusalem But war? Sir, - Never before have I thought of myself as a pacifist, but I couldn't help considering the possibility when I read the analysis by Yaakov Katz, who daily shows he is well-informed about the Israeli army ("Assassinating Ashkenazi would likely have led to war," September 1). The understatement that such a hit "would likely leave Israel with no choice but to respond" is granted - but war? Thousands risking life and limb; hundreds on both sides, fighters and civilians, getting killed or maimed; daily calm and the economy taking a nosedive for who knows how long, just because our security was faulty and we are bad losers? Katz sees this as a likely scenario because the abductions of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser led to the Second Lebanon War. But if there was anything to be learned from that campaign, it was that it was needless, senseless and too costly. In the case of a similar assassination attempt, God forbid, let us hope that instead of seeking revenge, someone at the helm will strive to improve the protection of our highest officials and gain satisfaction by trying to catch and punish the attacker and his handlers. M. VAN THIJN Jerusalem Real root cause Sir, - I beg to differ with Herb Keinon's statement in "Reframing the conflict" (August 28) that "the root cause… is the refusal of the Palestinians to acknowledge or recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people." It most decidedly is not. The tragically petrified and embedded psychological root cause of the problem is that the Palestinians hysterically, and with insane persistence, insist the land of Israel has no connection whatsoever with the Jewish people and, in fact, is a Palestinian Islamic wakf from the days of the caliphate under the Ottomans. In other words, they are striving for Israel to be Palestine. If all they did was refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish state, there still might be some room to negotiate over the future allocation of land and sovereignty in this neck of the woods. But the Palestinians seem adamant, wanting nothing but to displace the Jews. That is the root problem. And no negotiations will bear fruit until something is done to demoralize the Palestinian leadership, bring their heads down from out of the hallucinatory clouds and knock a measure of reasonableness into them - a recognition, at least, that the State of Israel's existence also has a measure of justice. As things are now, whether Israel builds in the settlements in Judea and Samaria or not has no influence whatsoever on the core problem. YONATAN SILVERMAN Tel Aviv Blueprints for death Sir, - The presentation to the Israeli prime minister of the architectural blueprints of the Auschwitz-Birkanau death camp was an event of great poignancy and historical significance. Apart from exposing the crazy claims of Holocaust deniers, it must also serve as a reminder of the crimes that evil or fanatical regimes are capable of ("Hinting at Iran, PM urges world to avoid Shoah-era apathy," August 27). I stress are, not were, because right now another Nazi-like regime is growing militarily stronger and more menacing by the day. Iran, a country governed by a de-facto doomsday cult, is engaged in developing nuclear power and a capacity to build viable nuclear weapons, while at the same time threatening openly to "wipe Israel off the map." Its armed forces are updating and perfecting their missiles and missile delivery potential at a ferocious rate and make no secret of their ambitions. When you add to these factors the non-stop supply of sophisticated weaponry and training by Iran to Hamas and Hizbullah - two organizations dedicated to the total destruction of the Jewish state - you have abundant evidence of Iran's intention toward the nation founded a few short years after the liberation of the death camps. But the Jewish people are not going to be pushed around this time. They will not have to wait helplessly for the present-day blueprints for annihilating Israel to be implemented. I believe Israel has a right to exist, and the Jewish people have a right to prevent an Iranian "Final Solution." JOHN FITZGERALD Co. Kilkenny, Ireland We didn't elect Obama Sir, - Gershon Baskin's articles fascinate me. In one of the first sentences of "President Obama: Pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace" (September 1), he hit the nail right on the head. Read further, and he misses all the remaining nails, and even the wall they are in. Baskin is absolutely right: "Obama does not face elections in Israel." In other words, nobody here elected him to be responsible for our safety. We elected a supposedly right-wing government, and not out of an inexplicable outbreak of obstinacy. The obstinacy has been rocketed into us. It's been mortar-bombed into us. This is what happened when we gave away Gush Katif for nothing. Eighteen years ago, when the first Oslo Agreement was signed, many of us walked around with a sense of doom, for which we were called all sorts of nasty names. We didn't know how very right we were. More than 1,000 of our citizens were subsequently blown up in our pizza parlours, in our restaurants, on our streets. Baskin now advocates giving away the Temple Mount, Judaism's most holy site, to our implacable enemies. Enemies? Read the statements that came out of the Fatah conference in Bethlehem just a couple of weeks ago. Baskin makes this offer as if all of the above had never happened. No one, not even Obama, has the right to force us to relive those terrible times. Certainly no one who lives elsewhere. Certainly no one whom the Israeli people did not democratically elect. THELMA JACOBSON Petah Tikva Crime prevention begins in school Sir, - A plan to curb crime will be successful only when it begins in the schools, though home rules are important too. A teacher should be formally addressed, and not just by his or her first name. Similarly, pupils should not be called yeled (or yalda) - they have names. A dress code would help more than we think, in and and even out of the classroom. The idea is to instill self-respect and respect for others. With the New Year almost here, let's hope for more enforcement, and positive reinforcement ("Netanyahu presents 5-point program to combat 'intolerable violence,'" August 31). OLGA P. WIND Holon 'Friends' Sir, - I read Herb Keinon's "Facebook reality" (August 30) with a wry smile. I too couldn't see any benefits to joining Facebook. If I wanted to contact friends and family, I e-mailed or phoned them. What did I need to put messages on Facebook for? Nor did I need to be "friends" with people I see regularly. Until my 16-year-old grandson in England stepped in, and Grandma was "forced" onto Facebook. I don't want to be "friends" with the world and his wife, but I was able to contact an old friend I had lost touch with, and that is a big plus. With regard to school reunions - Herb, don't ever go there! I went to one five years ago. I had attended an English girls' grammar school and left at 16; the gap was 50 years! I was shocked at the "old women" who walked into the hall. Where was that dare-devil who hid in the cupboard the whole of the French lesson? She had turned into a grey-haired, retired schoolteacher, as were most of them. My best friend, a lively Catholic girl, had been a civil servant, in the same job for 30 years! Having lived here for many years, I had very little to talk to them about apart from a few shared school memories. When another reunion was suggested, to be held in five years, I shuddered. Best to keep the happy school-day memories intact. LINDA SILVERSTONE Herzliya Pituah