In response to “Jerusalem court: Women not violating law by wearing prayer shawls at Western Wall” (Judy Maltz and Yair Ettinger, April 25)
According to the report, the Jerusalem District Court has ruled that the worship by the Women of the Wall does not violate “local custom” and the question that arises immediately is whether or not worship together by men and women in the Western Wall Plaza during the course of 2,000 years is the “local custom.”
In 1988, the government of Israel expropriated the Western Wall from the Jewish people and handed it over to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which, in gross violation of the “local custom” of men and women worshipping together at the Wall, transformed the Wall Plaza into an Orthodox synagogue and instituted separation there between women and men. I am attaching a photograph of my mother, Hannah Belzer, a native of Jerusalem (1914), at the Wall in 1938 with her father, the Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Belzer. Indeed, “One picture is worth a thousand words.”
Rika Kidon, Tel Aviv
An outrageous comparison
In response to “The Czar’s decrees in Israel” (April 24)
Did the Jews in the land of Nikolai I indeed determine how anyone who isn’t a Jew would be born, married, divorced or buried there? Ithamar Handelman-Smith’s comparison between what is required of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel and what was required of them in the land of the czar is outrageous. Also outrageous is the fact, which the writer took the trouble to emphasize, that he agrees with a Satmar Hasid who lives in New York (with whom he had a conversation in Yiddish) concerning what should be implemented in the state of Israel.
It is not true that “the mainstream Israeli does not want the ultra-Orthodox to be like everyone else.” There is no problem with them continuing to look different, to dress differently, to speak differently and, above all, to think and to live differently.”
It seems to me that most of the non-Haredi Israeli public also would not insist on the ultra-Orthodox serving in the army (which would not stand up to a cost-benefit analysis), and no one intends to convert them from their religion, as implied in Handelman-Smith’s remarks. What the mainstream Israeli would want, however − and this is the nub of the demand for sharing the burden equally − is that the ultra-Orthodox earn their living by the sweat of their own brows. All of them, or at least most of them, did so in the land of the czar.
Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, Jerusalem
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