September 24, 2017: 'Tis the season

The High Holy Days are upon us, and two of your writers are busy with various aspects of tikkun olam (repairing the world) that are appropriate to the time.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
’Tis the season
The High Holy Days are upon us, and two of your writers are busy with various aspects of tikkun olam (repairing the world) that are appropriate to the time.
Gil Troy (“May we have a year of listening generously,” Center Field, September 19) wants us to follow in the footsteps of Martin Buber and Donniel Hartman – if we were only to listen to one another, the world would improve vastly.
I don’t believe this to be true.
We are listening, but we can’t live with the other’s attitudes and personalities. I can’t live with the constant harping about Shabbat and Torah, and the other side can’t live with the fact that some believe there is no God yet are still moral, beautiful human beings.
Hen Mazzig, a descendant of Jewish Berbers, wants “superficially biased Western scholars” to stop nullifying the “rich history of Eastern Jews” (“Jewish orientation,” Comment & Features, September 19). In other words, stop being privileged white western Jewish males, or PWWJMs.
Instead of preaching to PWWJMs, hasn’t there been enough time for Eastern scholars to rise up and stupefy the Jewish world with the glories of the East?
History lesson
I was interested to read Hen Mazzig’s excellent piece on the Eastern tradition in Judaism.
I spent one enjoyable Yom Kippur at the synagogue on Djerba.
El Graiba means “the stranger” and refers to a woman who came down from Heaven in 580 BCE after the destruction of the First Temple, giving Jews plans for a synagogue and the key to it. So that shul (not the building, but the congregation) has been in existence since that century.
More than one Berber has told me that the Berbers are the real Palestinians, or Philistines, exiled from the Holy Land under King Solomon. They are very proud of their independence, especially that they were never conquered by the Romans.
In the tradition of biblical exegesis (based on Daniel), you hear about the “four evil empires.” The Romans were the last and perhaps the most antisemitic.
Certainly, they were more antisemitic than the Persians, who rebuilt the Temple. But along with that, the Pax Romana allowed a great flourishing and dispersion of Jewish culture.
One of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe is in Provence, where some Jews were exiled directly after the destruction of the Second Temple. The 20th-century composer Darius Milhaud belonged to this group. Apparently, his cousin was the last living speaker of Judeo-Provençal.
The Arabs themselves are inheritors of the Roman tradition, perhaps more so than the British or Germans, whom the Romans never conquered. Sephardi Jewish communities are divided into eastern and western branches.
The western branch came from the expulsion from Spain and lived in North Africa, Greece and Turkey, all areas that were part of the Roman Empire. When Mohammad wrote the Koran, he had to compete in eloquence with Greek sophists, part of the Byzantine empire.
As you can see, this dichotomy between Orient and Occident doesn’t apply to the Mediterranean region. When Kipling talked about it, he was talking about India and China, not the Near East or North Africa.
BDS blues
With regard to “Will BDS supporters refrain from buying the iPhone X?” (September 18), one can only hope so. Maybe they should refrain from buying all cellular phones and PCs, as much of their technology comes at least partly from – yep – Israel. (Also, no Copaxone, no Given intestinal imaging, no Mobileye....)
Phillips’s warning
Melanie Phillips’s great column “Britain’s alarming antisemitism problem” (As I See It, September 15) should be a warning to socialists and communists everywhere.
We know why you play the blame-the-Jews game: It is the eternal distortion you do now that the workers’ utopia has been catastrophically destroyed.
Any examples, ancient and modern hatreds, will do – so long as you are not accountable.
Utopia and dystopia have merged in your trite modus vivendi. Even self-hating Jews play this sick chimera that constantly changes form from “Zionism is racism” to whatever current realm of Jew-hatred fancies their ken – BDS or the revising of history.
History will not be kind to you.
You will be answerable.
Remarkable conference
The remarkable conference held by the Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinic and Community Development (“Barkai conference teaches rabbis how to help potential suicides,” September 14) creates hope that the community approach fostered by Rabbi David Fine, the center’s founder, will ensure that rabbis gain added sensitivity and tools to cope with this traumatic occurrence.
The statistics quoted are indeed horrifying: some 500 suicides a year – more than road deaths – as well as 6,000 to 10,000 attempted suicides.
Adding such knowledge to the basket of rabbinic skills is important and truly innovative. This potentially creates opportunities for families with such problems to turn to their neighborhood rabbi for understanding and support.
A family conference with community rabbis and women working in similar settings could bring untold benefits.
Let us bring in a New Year that prevents untold heartache through a supportive and skilled approach.
The writer is a psychotherapist.
Haredi power
On September 13, your front page had two major headlines related to the problem of overbearing haredi influence (“Court to gov’t: Pass new law in a year or draft all haredim”) and the power of their associates, namely the chief rabbis (“High Court deals tough blow to Chief Rabbinate kashrut monopoly”).
Their impact on our lives far exceeds their proportion of the population.
If their influence and power stemmed from purely religious and moral grounds, this might be if not acceptable, then at least legitimate. Facts of behavior tend to prove the contrary; if not, why would Tzohar be needed, why would ITIM be so active? These groups are the result of the short-sighted and extreme decisions made by both the Chief Rabbinate and the haredi parties.
The power of the haredim is due to the preference of politicians such as the current prime minister to include them in coalitions rather than more Zionist parties. The advantage is that they will not get too involved in the Palestine problem – though this is no longer a valid argument as there is no realistic chance in the near future of any negotiations.
We should demand before the next election a commitment from potential candidates that they will not include haredim in a coalition unless the haredim accept their share of the burden.
Otherwise, these parties should pay the price of sitting in the opposition, with the consequences felt by their supporters.
We might be pleasantly surprised, as things could change given the right circumstances.
Left unsaid
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, speaking at the annual 9/11 commemoration in Israel, described how Israel mourned for America when radical Islamic terrorists struck (“With cabinet members absent, US Ambassador Friedman commemorates 9/11 near J’lem,” September 12).
Political correctness dictates that Ambassador Friedman not mention that the radical Islamic terrorists were mostly Saudi Arabians. Most certainly, for fear of harming President Donald Trump’s unobtainable Israeli- Palestinian peace accord, he also failed to mention that the Palestinians at home and abroad celebrated 9/11 by distributing candy.
Zichron Ya’acov