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What about the views of the non-Orthodox?

In response to “Every Holocaust Remembrance Day, a secular jihad” ‏(Opinion, Mordechai Brener, April 15‏).

On April 15 you published a diatribe by Mordechai Brener. I say diatribe because it was neither an opinion nor a discussion. It was an attack on any Jew who does not share his view of life. If Israel is a democracy, as it is supposed to be, what about the views of others living here, who are not Orthodox? Many of us citizens hold other views of Judaism and by most accounts, polls and statistics, the Orthodox are a minority. I was taught the definition of a democracy was a place where the majority rules and minority rights are respected.

Brener talks about people wearing immodest dress in Mea She’arim and Bnei Brak. But who defines what constitutes modest dress? Does “immodest dress” give someone permission to spit on, insult or physically assault women, or even children, who do not meet his standard?

I think we, the people he is attacking, are more than tolerant in allowing this small minority to deny us access to transportation, restaurants, stores and entertainment. Why not trust the rest of us to do what we believe honors our dead and the things that are important to us − and that we learn through education, not coercion?

Brener talks about “desecrating the Sabbath” with disdain and contempt. Several years ago, my son was a member of the Jerusalem police. One night, he and his partner were sent to a religious section of the city because of a fire reported in a residential building. He and his partner arrived before fire trucks or other police units. They were ordered not to enter the building or make rescue attempts. Still, they felt it was their duty to enter the building and warn the inhabitants about the fire. They pounded on doors and pulled people out. When they emerged from the building, they were greeted not by cheers from tenants of nearby buildings, but by a barrage of bottles, garbage and cries from the rooftops that they had “desecrated the Sabbath.”

On returning to their station, they were officially reprimanded for disobeying orders, but were comforted by the thought of children, dirty from the smoke, but alive and well. And this is desecration?

Bobbi Maisel, Israel

Awe at the ingathering of long-exiled exiles

In response to “Home, but not free” ‏(Opinion, Alon Idan, April 15‏).

As one who stood alone in silence gazing out my window the other night as Israel ground to a halt for a moment’s reflection, I feel compelled to respond to Alon Idan’s scathing opinion piece “Home, but not free,” and his 1984-ish comment that people who do so, do so out of fear.

My reaction to his views was intensified by the fact that moments before reading his piece, I had parted from an older friend, a widow who does what she can to commemorate these holidays − out of awe, not fear. Born in Nazi Germany and raised in a large Scandinavian country, she migrated with her family to South Africa during apartheid. The Scandinavian country had denied her citizenship, and South Africa always remained for her an alien place. “I never felt at home anywhere but here,” she told me.

Unlike your unnamed citizens standing alone in their dwellings, she was not filled with fear of the state, but awe, appreciation and love. I suggest that others who did so were not unlike her. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction, a “religious signifier,” but a deeply felt connection.

Interestingly enough, these holidays fall on the third week after Passover, closely allied with the attribute of tiferet, compassion − one which seems to be sorely lacking in Idan’s rather robotic critique.

Perhaps you, Mr. Idan, are younger than the state, born here of parents who are also younger than the state? It’s not fear of the state, but love and awe at the ingathering of our long-exiled exiles that underline these collective moments of silence and reflection. Perhaps if Idan could find a place of greater compassion within himself, he could more easily comprehend the other’s love for the Land of Israel.

B. Belfer Wiesner, Jerusalem