Gas’s inner limits In “Your future: Gas – blessing or curse?” (Your Taxes, September 20), Leon Harris brings to our attention a situation that warns us of a very serious and distressing plan to spoil some of the great beauties of our small country: our beaches and nature reserves along almost one-third of our coastline. What is even more distressing is that this is happening with the approval of the Knesset and government!The Leviathan fixed gas rig has been approved at a distance of 7.5 to 10 km. from shore, compared to the 60 km for the Tanin and Karish gas fields. This is a threat not only to the beauty of our beaches, but to tourism, our health and real estate values.Are these the objectives of the government? Where is the media on this topic? How can such a law be passed without a popular outcry, and what can we do to prevent it from being implemented? NINA DIESENDRUCK Netanya How could any government faced with two possible options to exploit natural gas – one that poses no risk to the coastal community, and another that blights the area and poses major health risks – plump for the latter? It makes no economic, social or environmental sense.Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin should speak to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and impress on him the urgent need to revert to the previous position. If they cannot speak truth to power, they do not deserve to remain as cabinet ministers.The coming year is likely to be an election year. Once the present situation is more widely known, there will be a huge outcry that could provide the opposition parties with a big stick with which to beat the government.The prime minister should recognize the potential threat and act immediately to defuse the situation.MICHAEL BLISS Netanya Separation in prayer I was puzzled by Einat Ramon’s excellent summary of the history of the gender barrier at the Kotel in “Mechitza (separation) at the Western Wall – and the unity of Israel” (Observations, September 20). She omits one of the most significant benchmarks in the chronology of the issue of mixed seating in synagogues. In the 1950s, Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik began to inveigh against the practice, which had become de rigueur in Reform and Conservative (and even some Orthodox) synagogues in the US. A seminal figure in modern American Orthodox Judaism, he recounted the experience of a man who moved to a suburb of Boston that had only a mixed-seating Conservative synagogue.“The young man implored me that I grant him permission to enter the edifice, at least for a half hour, that he might hear the shofar on Rosh Hashana,” the rabbi wrote. “I hesitated not for a moment, but directed him to remain at home. It would be better not to hear the shofar than to enter a synagogue whose sanctity has been profaned.”He gave three reasons: Such mingling is forbidden according to Jewish law; such a locale has none of the sanctity of a synagogue; and any prayers offered there are worthless in the eyes of Jewish law.In his summary, he called for mobilization to wage “an indefatigable battle against the ‘Christianization’ of the synagogue – a process that is being accomplished by people who possess no sense of Halacha but do have the arrogance to wreck principles and traditions that have become hallowed.”SHIRA SCHMIDT Netanya The historic basis for gender separation is detailed in a scholarly manner that would suggest it is the way. But if we are to look to the past for how to live today, should we not continue animal sacrifice? And what about polygamy? Slavery? Jews have always been as fractured in their view of religion (and every other topic) as they are today. What is different is that the rabbinate in Israel has power and is not respected by most secular Jews.A house divided cannot stand. It is long past time that haredi and secular Israelis were treated equally in every respect. The longer our politicians sell their souls for haredi support, the greater the size of the golden calf and the weaker Israel will become.PHILIP BRIEFF Jerusalem The Diaspora’s infatuation with the egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel garners little sympathy among average Israelis.One reason too often goes unsaid: At at time when our prime minister and the president of the United States were about to address the UN General Assembly on the Iranian threat, Reform and Conservative leaders were more concerned about getting their “piece of the rock.”Maybe if they had a bit more empathy for our continuous fight for survival, we would be more interested in improving the egalitarian section of the Kotel.ANDERSON HARKOV Modi’in Separate seating during a service is a basic requirement in all Orthodox congregations. The fact that two Orthodox MKs, a male and a female, were seen praying next to each other in the Jericho synagogue is no justification for your topof- the-page headline “Is egalitarian seating coming to Bayit Yehudi?” (September 19). In any event, MKs – Orthodox or not – do not and cannot establish any halachic practice.What is most upsetting are the reactions of the respective officials of the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel.The sarcastic and mocking response to MK Bezalel Smotrich by Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, bespeaks only an unclean mind. The director of the Israeli Reform movement, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, used the incident to try to prove that all Orthodox MKs are a bunch of hypocrites.Still, Smotrich put his foot in his mouth by trying to deny that they recited the Slihot prayers together. He claimed they were reading “Sephardi liturgic poems.” He ought to be informed that Sephardi and Ashkenazi liturgical poems are the essence of the Slihot prayers.MORDECHAI SPIEGELMAN Jerusalem Christian friend With my wife, I have visited Israel many times, and each time I could not help seeing what many in the world, including the Church, do not want to see: the mixture of people.Arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, the mixture of Jews and Arabs was obvious. In Jerusalem, I walked the Old City and there was no notice of different people walking side by side. Then I had to take a friend to the medical center, where the Jewish and Arab people sat side by side. And so it went. Side by side, the people work in hospitals, hotels, commerce and transport.As a Christian, I am deeply saddened by the actions of many people in the churches supporting things that are so obviously unbiblical. Many of these people have never been to Israel and seen what the reality of being there is like.I will be back with a group of Christians who stand with and support this land for what it is and for what it will be, where the Israeli people truly live and will never to be removed again.DENNIS MCLEOD Hamilton, New Zealand CORRECTION The US Army officer shown cutting a ribbon in the photo accompanying “US Army opens government base inside southern IDF base” (September 19) is Col. David Shank, and not as stated.