September 10, 2017: Poor timing?

While it is wonderful that such human rights organizations are allowed to flourish in Israel, one must ask whether a Jew in an Arab country would have access to such an organization.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Poor timing?
With regard to “A-G tells Sara of intent to indict” (September 8), the recently investigated affairs were the Prepared Food Affair, the Waiters Affair, the Electrician Affair and the Father’s Homecare Affair. Apparently, Sara Netanyahu will likely be indicted only in the Prime Minister’s Residence Affair.
This comes at a time when US Defense Secretary James Mattis says that the Americans “are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so.” Has Israel got its priorities right?
Biblical backing
Jessica Montell’s “Ending punitive demolitions” (Observations, September 8) extols the virtues of the NGO HaMoked, which she describes as the “lead organization contesting [home demolitions by the Israeli government].” She argues that such demolitions represent collective punishment, saying “every legal system in the world agrees that you cannot be punished for the crimes of your relatives,” and explains that this is “a natural law principle that goes back to the Bible,” for which she cites Ezekiel 18:20.
While it is wonderful that such human rights organizations are allowed to flourish in Israel, one must ask whether a Jew in an Arab country would have access to such an organization (if Jews were even allowed to live in those countries).
Ms. Montell fails to quote a contrary biblical ruling found in Vayikra (Leviticus 20:5). There, the Torah states that in response to one who engages in the idol worship of “Molech,” God will turn His face to such person and “his family” and punish them. Rashi, quoting the Gemara in the name of Rebbe Shimon, asks: If the violator engaged in prohibited conduct, why is his family to be punished? The response is that if one is an illegal tax collector [or criminal], his family is punished for defending or encouraging such conduct. Therefore, collective punishment is indeed sanctioned in the “natural law” of the Bible.
We see in the news all the time how the family of a terrorist instilled Jew-hatred that causes the offending conduct. The terrorist gets one punishment and the family receives a punishment designed to act as a deterrent. The Bible does not regard the family as innocent, and secular law is allowed to assume that the family participates in, condones or defends such terrorist activity.
In home demolitions, the occupants are punished on the assumption that the home was used in the planning of the crime or because the occupants failed to exercise greater care in preventing the criminal activity. Israel’s Supreme Court has upheld such demolitions, and there are studies that confirm their deterrent effect.
The point is that the issue is not clear as a matter of “natural law” and is not supported by “every legal system in the world.”
Silver Spring, Maryland
Praise where due
Yaakov Katz (“Self-desecrating in the IDF,” Editor’s Notes, September 8), in noting that existing coalition members do not seem to be in a rush for new elections, is quite unfair when he writes that “Moshe Kahlon doesn’t have a single accomplishment to show after two years as finance minister.” How odd.
The unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2015, before Kahlon’s appointment, averaged 5.2%. It has been continuously below 5% since April 2016, falling to the remarkable 4.1% this past July. Meanwhile, Israel’s inflation rate has been mildly negative during 2014-17. The value of the shekel has appreciated and Israel’s credit rating may be going up, based on the country’s robust economic performance.
It used to be that the finance minister was thought to have something to do with a country’s macroeconomic performance.
Katz thinks not. Would he give all the credit to Karnit Flug, governor of the Bank of Israel, or perhaps to Kahlon’s boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? To be fair, all three deserve praise for Israel’s stellar macroeconomic strength, which provides broad benefits to the population.
The writer is a retired economist who taught macroeconomics at York University in Toronto.
Amar and Reform
Your article “J’lem chief rabbi: Reform Jews deny more than Holocaust deniers” (September 7) ignores the substantial realities of the seismic split between halachic Jews who follow the faith of their fathers, and Reform Jews, including an increasing number of their adherents who do not have halachic Jewish status.
Unfortunately, the religion of Reform Jews is not based on the 613 commandments, but rather on the second- and third-strongest human instincts after self-preservation: self-gratification and self-justification They do not have the moral or intellectual integrity to admit that they have created a new and inimical religion to authentic halachic Judaism.
The entire debate on access to the Western Wall must be seen in this context. Can Protestants perform Holy Communion in St Peter’s? Can Roman Catholics perform Mass at the Kava? So why should people who practice a faith in which they misrepresent Judaism in much the same way that Messianic Christians do invade the holy places that do not belong to their faith, and never have?
As Israel accommodates all faiths in Jerusalem, let them pray elsewhere on the eastern or northern walls if they must, but not, as the enemies of the Jews have done throughout history, desecrate holy places to which we have biblical title.
Herzliya Pituah
Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s reference to the women’s section of the Western Wall in support of his case for the rejection of Reform Judaism is incorrect. His statement reflects either historical and halachic ignorance, or an attempt to manipulate well documented historical facts.
The women’s court of the Temple (Tractate Middot 2:5-6) was a common location for both men and women. Ritual gatherings were held there in mixed company. The court contained four open-roofed offices serving all visitors. It was given the name because it was the limit of permissible entry into the Temple for impure women, not because it was theirs exclusively.
Rabbi Amar, as a purported Torah scholar, should be careful with his teachings, especially in the context of accusing fellow Jews of trying to change Jewish tradition.
Beit Shemesh
It fascinates me that elderly rabbis here in Israel who constantly make divisive and disjointed comments are adored by many people. Do these rabbis never suffer from dementia like the rest of the population?
I have seen people hanging onto every word said by a 102-year-old rabbi, yet none seemed to consider that the rabbi might have lost the plot. How old is Rabbi Shlomo Amar?
My husband is a Reform rabbi and a Holocaust survivor. Where does he fit into Rabbi Amar’s rant?
Kiryat Tivon
No comparison
With regard to reader Michael Abramowitz’s comments on Elor Azaria (“The Azaria case,” Letters, August 2), Azaria committed a murder – and he was a medic trained to save lives, not destroy them.
In bringing up the relative leniency of the sentence meted out to former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Mr. Abramowitz writes: “Men died on the battlefield because of Olmert and his incompetency.” This is arrant nonsense. Financial crime is well below the seriousness of murder.
There is simply no comparison.
The writer is a physician and was a flight surgeon in the Israel Air Force.