Letters to the editor, November 6

Noah's lessons Sir, - I enjoyed the analysis of Noah and the Tower of Babel by Yosef I. Abramowitz ("Not good enough," November 3). I would like to add that the world was destroyed during Noah's time because of robbery. Society from the government level down was corrupt. However, during the days of Babel, the world was not destroyed because the people were unified - even though their unity was for a subversive purpose. Maybe we should learn that we should have checks and balances on our own government; and, if we stand together, we have a better chance of surviving as a nation. SYLVIA WEISSMANN Jerusalem Sir, - I applaud Yosef I. Abramowitz's dedication to social action on behalf of those in need. However, it seems he may have judged Noah harshly, and not necessarily in keeping with Jewish interpretations of the Torah. He said Noah did nothing for the hungry and vulnerable people of his day. This ignores the teaching that when Noah was born his father proclaimed, "This one will bring us consolation from our work and from the toil of our hands from the ground which God has cursed." The renowned commentator Rashi, based on Midrash Tanchuma, says this vision came true when Noah invented the plow, a device which increased agricultural production and helped reduce hunger. It is also questionable to say that Noah did nothing to try to save humanity from the flood. For all the years that he was building the ark, we are taught that Noah urged people to turn back from their evil ways. RABBI SHLOMO WEXLER Jerusalem Proudly named Sir, - Despite rabbinical recommendations regarding unadvisable names for children ("Rabbinic Web site tackles what's in a name," November 3), I am very proud my son is named Ariel. Of my three children, he is the only one who has a Hebrew name. I gave him this name to signify that I am proud to be a Jew, and in memory of a close friend who passed away right before he was born. I don't understand why we need to ask anyone's advice on what to name our children. Can't we think for ourselves? If the name Ariel is now forbidden it is those who forbid it who are stigmatizing my son. It seems rabbis have all the time in the world to decide on unimportant things like this, but they don't find the time to embrace fellow Jews who are secular or homosexual. While I respect rabbis and, of course, the Torah, I wonder sometimes if they respect us. SANDY RAMATI Weston, Florida Sir, - I was very surprised to read about the proscription of children's names beginning or ending with "el." Upon checking the Web site noted in the article, (www.moriya.org.il), I found that this does not apply to names from the Tanach such as Elija, Elisha, etc. BRENDA BRONNER Antwerp Sir, - My reaction when I read about names that raise rabbinical ire can be summarized as follows: As if we didn't have any larger problems with which to deal. ISRAEL KELLER New York Democratic game Sir, - Yossi Beilin writes that society must accept "the rules of the democratic game" ("The lesson for the peace camp"). That democracy can be viewed as a game explains the Left's acceptance of Yitzhak Rabin's and, more recently, Prime Minister Sharon's playing with Knesset members, having them switch sides in defiance of the will of the voters. CHAYIM SEIDEN Jerusalem Sir, - How does Yossi Beilin believe it is possible to negotiate with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority if it is significantly influenced by Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Without the precondition of the elimination of terrorism in the Palestinian camp, Beilin's suggestion of negotiating is an exercise in futility. As for negotiating with our other Arab neighbors, after we have an agreement with the Palestinians, most of the obstacles will disappear. ALEX LOVINGER Ra'anana Sir, - Yitzhak Rabin labelled Shimon Peres an "inveterate underminer" and Yossi Beilin as "Peres's poodle." Now Yossi Beilin is stepping forward to sermonize about what Rabin would have done and how the peace camp must resume Rabin's path. For me, thinking of Yossi Beilin as a disciple of Yitzhak Rabin is like thinking that having been criticized by Frank Sinatra makes you a singer. MARK L. LEVINSON Herzliya Indefensible Sir, - The Israeli government may have its merits and demerits, but for David Hirsh to suggest that its policies force Jews either to be silent about anti-Semitism or to validate some viewpoints of anti-Semites is very problematic ("The smart way to fight British anti-Semitism," November 1). While Hirsh describes the Israeli government's relations with Palestinians as "indefensible," it is, in fact, the repeated acts of terrorism against Israel that should be described in this way. The Palestinian Authority's tepid condemnations of the murder of Jews and the different standard by which Israel is repeatedly judged when compared with its neighbors are also deserving of this label. DAVID M. FROST Silver Spring, Maryland Sir, - David Hirsh advocates that the only way to give people the confidence and ability to stand up against anti-Semitism is to have them join the proud tradition of opposing racism in general. He seems to believe that "anti-Semitism... appears to tell the truth about what Israel is doing." I can see his problem. If you believe your enemy's propaganda, how can you be motivated to fight it? But how will David Hirsh's "principled and pragmatic," generic anti-racist arguments protect our fellow Jews in Israel and around the world? Israel faces existential threats, both military and through a global campaign of slander and vilification from many quarters. Our inattention to the propaganda war against Israel and Judaism would compound those threats. STEVE LIEBLICH Perth Sir, - While David Hirsh acknowledges that anti-Semitism in the UK is on the rise, he states it is not "soaring." The resignation of Jews from student unions and Muslim agitation against Jews in the UK indicate that this statement is not accurate. Hirsh states that it is Israeli action against Palestinians which inhibits Jewish protest against anti-Semitism in the UK. Blaming anti-Semitism on anyone other than the anti-Semite is what is indefensible. Further, Israel's actions against Palestinians are more than justified; and its actions against its own wrongdoers deserves respect. Jewish leaders who only whisper, who are perfectly proper in order to gain the tolerance of our enemies, are selling out their constituencies. Paul Winter Chatswood, New South Wales Economic 'security' Sir, - Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fisher told the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors meeting that Israel's economy could easily grow at the rate of 6 percent, and even more than Europe if the security situation was good ("Fisher: 6 percent growth could be achieved 'easily,'" November 3). At around the time Mr. Fisher was speaking, a woman was stabbed in the face by a teenage Palestinian attacker in the Liberty Bell park ("Arab teen stabs woman in Jerusalem park," November 3). The attacker came from Ramallah. What kind of security is there when Palestinians can easily slip through from Ramallah and wander freely in Jerusalem? It seems the IDF checkpoints are more necessary than ever. If Israel caves in to pressure for their removal how will we achieve minimal security, let alone economic prosperity? TOBY WILLIG Jerusalem Nothing gained Sir, - Given that the Palestinians are still sending rockets and mortars into Israel on a regular basis from the Gaza Strip ("Mortars score direct hit on moshav," November 3) what did Israel accomplish with the disengagement? KALMAN FEDER Nof Ayalon American dream Sir, - Although I agree with most of what Shmuley Boteach wrote ("Religious Americans who hate America," October 27), I think it is unfair of him to characterize "countless religious Americans" as agreeing that the recent disasters that have befallen America are punishment from God for the country's lack of morality. I think most believe this is nonsense for indeed many other countries around the world should be punished before America. As a religious Jew, I believe that God punishes only those who know they are doing something wrong. Most Americans are simply living the American dream with no concept of modesty or moderation regarding lifestyle. Menachem Weiss Sussiya, Southern Hebron Hills Site swap Sir, - I'm relieved to read that both President Katsav and President of the Pontifical Council of Religious Relations with the Jews Cardinal Walter Kasper have said there is no agreement about a religious "site swap" involving the Last Supper Room in David's Tomb in Jerusalem and the Toledo Synagogue in Spain ("Katsav, papal official deny 'site swap,'" November 3). I do not believe this transaction would be in the best interests of Israel. I think it would be far better to ask the pope to return the Hebrew books and all the Jewish religious items that are in the Vatican's possession. Ugo Franco Ra'anana What about Canada? Sir, - While I read and enjoy the new feature page entitled "POSTMARKS News from the English-speaking world," I could not help but notice the omission of Canada from the list of countries regularly profiled there. Though not Canadian myself, I think I can rightly request on behalf of your Anglo readers: how about giving us some news of Canada, eh? Gershon Bacon Jerusalem The Postmarks editor responds: We are always on the lookout for stimulating news from Canada .