Participants of a Taglit-Birthright trip.
Participants of a Taglit-Birthright trip.
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Mr. Mark, don’t insult the intelligence of Birthright participants

Your report in last Sunday’s paper that the Birthright program had banned its participants from attending military funerals came as quite a surprise. I would have thought just the opposite. At the funeral of soldier Amit Yeori (Z”L) a Gaza casualty, a number of Birthright visitors attended. A family member commented that the Birthright group was respectful, but he couldn’t understand why they were there. Was it not just a few days ago that thousands showed up at a lone soldier’s funeral in Haifa lest he be interred unremembered.

The motivation of the Birthright group was likely nothing more than a sense of obligation to pay final respects to one of their generation whose ultimate sacrifice would help make the future of Israel secure. Is it so difficult to attribute a strong sense of kinship to many of the Birthright participants?

Gidi Mark, CEO of Birthright commented that to attend a funeral one has to understand the full context of what is happening. What’s to understand about the funeral of a young soldier? Since when does death while answering the call of duty require an explanation? Mark insults the intelligence and emerging sense of Israel’s reality of most Birthright participants.

There is a legitimate PR issue at stake here. After all, while Birthright presents our best face, it can’t be too anxious to have its participants exposed to the more dire side of what Israelis their age experience. Birthright participants are more than mature enough to decide for themselves if attending a soldier’s funeral would lend additional meaning to their visit.

Marvin Shapiro
Tel Aviv

Peter Beinart’s selective use of ‘facts’

With regard to “Gaza myths and facts: what American Jewish leaders won’t tell you,” July 30,

Peter Beinart’s argument that Israel is occupying Gaza relies on him failing to make any mention of the border with Egypt where there has been thriving trade as made clear in the article on Hamas’ finances in the same edition of your paper.
He is similarly selective with the facts when he uses two political scientists to bolster his assertion that Ariel Sharon withdrew Israelis from Gaza because he didn’t want a Palestinian state. I looked up the article Beinart refers to (Rynhold and Waxman in Political Science Quarterly). The authors state clearly that Sharon preferred the Road Map which envisaged a Palestinian state, as it better addressed Israel’s security concerns. Adapting an old adage: “Never let the facts spoil your ideology.”

Lawrence Lever
London

Time for Israel to show compassion to Gaza’s children

In the deluge of endless talking on our TV channels, where the entire population has expressed opinions on Gaza I seem to be the only one in the country left out. How deeply disturbing it is to find one urgent subject totally ignored: the plight of the children in Gaza, amid reports of inadequate or non-existent medical help.
Israel has always prided itself, and felt a deep glow of satisfaction when we are among the first countries to respond to catastrophe world wide. Remember the emergency in Haiti? How proud we were to be one of the first countries to respond and set up emergency field hospitals.? And how many of us even knew where Haiti was on the map? Remember our magnificent aid after earthquakes in Turkey?

This humanitarian disaster is happening just a few miles away, happening to our next-door neighbors, whether we like them or not. They have nowhere to hide, nowhere to run .The children are certainly not to blame for the callous brutality of their fanatical leaders. It is heartbreaking to see — as we do endlessly thanks to the BBC and others who delight in showing Israel in the worst possible light — the real agony and suffering of these little children. Look at the loving kindness and care and constant nurturing we give our own children, knowing how deep and painful are the wounds of fear and trauma .

Why then can we not help our neighbors, and set up field hospitals on the Gaza border? We have the experience and the world’s best experts. Bring these traumatized wounded children here to our “hospital on the border,” it would be the only light in their hellish lives, a beacon of hope and security.

As a mere humble citizen of Israel, I have of course no knowledge of the difficulties involved, but surely this is not beyond Israel’s extraordinary capabilities and skills. It is surely the decent thing to do. This would be Israel at its noblest, in the great Biblical tradition of compassion and kindness for the stranger. And it would surely be one of our finest hours.

Freda Keet
Herzliya

Israeli army should aid Gazans

Israel surely has no quarrel with ordinary Gaza citizens who find themselves between a rock and a hard place.  I think it would be a wonderful thing if the army began giving parcels and aid to the many helpless and suffering people in Gaza.  I have heard some stories of soldiers who have given their parcels and sweets to the children of Gaza.  This should be done on a larger scale, and with an official organization.

Jews know something about suffering.  Now that we are in a position to help others, we should do so.

Mike Porter
Ramat Aviv