October 7: Modern Babel

October 7 Modern Babel

Modern Babel Sir, - As unpleasant as is the prospect of Israeli officials abroad being arrested on grounds of war crimes ("Ya'alon, fearing arrest, cancels UK charity trip, October 6), one might be justified in feeling that, finally, the world is subverting national loyalties to universal human standards. But our - and the world's - mistake would be that an unjust world law is worse than an unjust national law. Remember in the Bible, when it seemed so wonderful to have all mankind joined in the project of building the Tower of Babel and speaking one language? Yet God was not happy about it. Why? Because the United Nations of the day had a fatal flaw: the union was there, but the morality wasn't. An international system of justice covering genocide and war crimes would be good if it were based on justice. But the prejudiced and compromised record of our current UN does not bode well for the future. The built-up majorities against Israel, the resentment of East against West is constructing for us not the "one unit" we prayed for on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but a Tower of Babel. JACOB CHINITZ Jerusalem Temple Mount violence... Sir, - Further to your very accurate "Third intifada?" (Editorial, October 6): It seems that the Arabs outmaneuver us at every turn when it comes to the Temple Mount. All they have to do is create a disturbance and Jews are forbidden to go up to the Mount. What happened to the emotional "The Temple Mount is in our hands!" after the Six Day War? I suggest that if violence occurs again, no Arab - not even those over 50 - should be allowed up on the Mount for at least a week for each day that Jews cannot go there. Should the disturbances continue, extend the curb for a month. We should, at the same time, make the world aware of Arab intolerance of all non-Muslims. The silence of our elected officials is deafening. VEL WERBLOWSKY Jerusalem ...the reason why Sir, - Israeli magnanimity toward Palestinian abuse of the Temple Mount and of Jewish claims to the site is the real cause of this violence. Successive Israeli governments have routinely treated the reality that the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, and that Israel and the Jewish people have absolute historical and moral authority there, with indifference bordering on contempt. Israel must begin to assert its legal and moral authority over the Temple Mount by allowing both Jewish visitation and prayer on the site, in much the same manner as is done at Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs. The Palestinians may violently oppose a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, but forceful assertion of Jewish rights there might make them see that Israel means business. That could lead to them abandoning their stubborn rejection of any settlement with Israel and their ridiculous and genocidal demands, and their replacement with reasonable positions. It might even result in them negotiating in good faith. KENNETH BESIG Kiryat Arba Vengeance on the past Sir, - My wife, Rita, and I were brought to tears as we watched the newsclips showing how the site of Avdat has been defaced ("Ancient Avdat extensively damaged by vandals," October 6). We remembered our first visit, in summer 1963, to that pristine city uncovered from the sands of time. As young students quite unfamiliar with Nabatean culture, we were impressed by how exactly the archeologists had made the past come to life. Our children and older grandchildren have found the site meaningful as well. The "sackers," whoever they may be, put Israelis on alert that we must guard zealously such public treasures which have been meticulously restored. Sadly, the vandals chose Succot, our festival of joy, to barbarize what is precious to us. As we were led on that first visit to Ein Avdat, to swim in its cool waters, let the hotheads first dip themselves and dissipate their anger before they decide to take vengeance on the past. DAVID GEFFEN Jerusalem Scant self-help Sir, - I agree with David Newman: There are serious problems in the allocation of resources for Arab towns and villages ("Israel's democracy and its Arab population," October 6). However, unlike its Druse counterparts, the Arab population is mostly represented by leaders who exacerbate the Jewish-Arab divide. While the Israel government granted citizenship to the local Arab populations, they themselves have decided to opt out rather than work within the political system to improve their lot. BARRY LYNN Efrat Step forward - or two back? Sir, - The United Nations Relief and Works Agency's decision to include information about the Shoah as part of a new human rights curriculum for its schools in the Gaza Strip appears to represent a positive, if long overdue, step forward ("UNRWA to teach Shoah to Palestinians," October 6). But if John Ging, UNRWA's director of operations in the Gaza Strip, is suggesting that the "Nakba" be taught in a way that equates it with the Shoah, that would also be two steps back. Moreover, if Mr. Ging believes that the Nakba should be taught, what is his opinion about the expulsion of a far greater number of Jews - nearly 900,000 - forced into exile from their homes in Arab lands during and after the 1948 war? They are truly the world's forgotten refugees. And will UNRWA also teach Palestinian children about the 1948 war itself - not only an attempt by five Arab armies to wipe an entire country off the map but also an attempted genocide against Israel's 500,000 Jews? Perhaps there is a human rights lesson to be learned from the Arabs' decision to initiate that epic conflict. AHARON S. R. SILVER San Francisco Sir, - Whose side of the Shoah will the organization choose to teach? L. SCHAEFFER Jerusalem Bite of the burger Sir, - I think it is important to point out that the widespread consumption of burgers and other animal products is endangering every person on the planet ("Keeping your burger - and you - safe" (October 6). Amid increasing reports of the severe effects of climate change, a recent UN report indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than all the cars, planes and other means of transportation worldwide combined. Reducing global warming is especially important for Israel as it faces the worst drought in its history. The Israel Union for Environmental Defense projects that global warming will cause a decrease of rainfall of up to 30 percent, severe heat waves and storms, and a flooding of the coastal plain, where most Israelis live, by a rising Mediterranean Sea. Hence, it is essential that we Jews play our mandated role as God's partners in protecting the world in leading efforts to mitigate the effects of global climate change - and one essential way to do that is to shift toward plant-based diets. In addition, the production and consumption of meat and other animal products arguably contradicts basic Jewish mandates to preserve our health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help reduce hunger. RICHARD H. SCHWARTZ, President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America Staten Island