Letters to the Editor
Bereaved mother's message to Haredim
My son, like everybody else at the age of 18, had a lifestyle and a belief system. The neurosciences had become his holy grail. He intended to carry out research at the Weizmann Institute in this field after gaining his academic degree, and he had already been promised a place at the institute because of his brilliance as a summer student at Weizmann's neuroscience laboratories. He liked sleeping late, Chinese food and football, reading and films, Nietzsche and going out with girls. This lifestyle was largely possible, apart from the demands of school, when he lived at home under the authority of parents who approved of his activities. When David reported for his army service, all this changed. He was clearly not able to follow his chosen lifestyle. No one asked him when he wanted to get up, or what he liked to eat, or how he planned his day. He was first accommodated in a tent with others of his draft cohort who carried knives, were violent, and did not talk his language. The food he was given was, to him, barely edible - for the most part, inedible. The training program was physically painful, the requirements of instant obedience to what he saw as often senseless commands, difficult.
But David accepted - as did the other kids - that there was a new sheriff in town: the army, not his parents. He accepted this new regime as a fact of life. Gradually it became easier, but never could it become his chosen way of life. He saw his army service as his duty, like all the other kids. So he did it to the best of his ability, reaching the rank of sergeant after one year.
David was killed during his army service, aged 19-and-a-half. I can't see any difficulty or need for "adjustment time" in recruiting 18-year-old Haredim. The army does not need to make any changes - it is as it has to be. It is the Haredim who have to put their individual lifestyles on hold and accept that for three years, their rabbis are no longer their authority - for them too, there is a new sheriff in town. Let's do it, without delay, without army adjustments for "special needs" - they are not more special than those of all the other kids. All our lifestyles are holy to us. Army service must be wholly and immediately equal for all, as must penalties for refusal to serve. This also applies, obviously, to special economic grants; civil life must also be equalized with regard to hand-outs.
As regards the Arab population, equality of service to their own country, which protects them like it does any other citizen, is a moral requirement and must be applied. However, there is a moral dilemma in asking citizens to fight against our surrounding potential enemies, when so many of them have family members among those nations. In this case, the option of national service rather than army service seems morally justified and applicable.
In summary, let appropriate equal service for all start now and leave the army lifestyle to its own requirements without special adjustments for any group.
In response to "The dispute that ran off the rails (Yehuda Ben-Meir, Opinion, August 12 ).
About which democracy is the writer referring to when the people don't directly elect members of the Knesset, the ministers, or the prime minister? They don't represent the people, but they do represent their parties and their leaders. That isn't democracy!!!!! In the United States, Congress members are directly elected by the people just as is the president. Furthermore, under the War Powers Act of 1973, the president cannot declare war without the consent of Congress, and at the end of 60 days the war must end unless there is approval by the Congress. The writer needs to learn what democracy is before writing about it.
Too grim for the morning
In response to "Harvard to buy Israeli Educational TV program," August 8 ).
The situation in Israel is pretty grim. As a long term subscriber to the English edition of the paper, I am generally most appreciative of the effort the paper puts into making us aware of the problems we face daily.
The above-mentioned article concerned Harvard's having reached an agreement under which it will purchase Israeli programs for the digital database of its research library. It was an interesting item, although I found it totally unnecessary and extremely disturbing to mention the following remark by Charles Berlin, head of the Harvard Library's Judaica Division:
"Israel Radio archive head Motti Amir said ... Berlin ... "expressed the importance of saving the [Israel Broadcasting Authority] archive by saying that if there would ever not be a State of Israel, at least there would be a memory of it." (Italics added. )
I usually start my morning with coffee, a smoked salmon sandwich and Haaretz. Was it really necessary to print this very disturbing and mind-boggling addition to our serious daily concerns?