Letters to the Editor (January 25, 2012)
Chilling lessons of the past
The recent decision by the Israeli Supreme Court to eliminate the right of Israelis to live with the spouse of their choice is a development that should gravely concern all Americans who care about the future of the Jewish state.
As Israel deals with largescale changes to its demographic landscape, the country is being confronted with more choices that will determine whether it remains a democracy that respects the rights of its citizens or one that restricts human rights in the name of security. Justice Asher Grunis, who wrote the court's majority opinion, summed up the Israeli conundrum perfectly. "Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide," said Justice Grunis. The problem is that Justice Grunis' statement forgets whose rights the court has taken away: that of its own citizens. Although the majority of Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians are Arab-Israelis, as a free society, the ethnicity or religion of a citizen does not afford any particular Israeli more rights than any other. With over 20 percent of its citizens Arabs, Israel risks isolating and potentially radicalizing a large portion of its population that has made significant contributions to society and shown a positive example of how Arabs and Jews can live together in peace.
On a recent visit to Jerusalem I visited the Yad Vashem, the memorial and museum to the millions murdered in the Holocaust. Something that especially disturbed me was the subtle ways in which Germany slowly took away the rights of the Jews of Europe. One of the first was eliminating German citizens' rights to marry and live with a Jewish spouse. If we forget the lessons of the past we risk slowly repeating them ourselves.
Neil S. Walther
What 'Father Judaism' has to say
In response to "Father Judaism and Mother democracy," January 22
Yair Sheleg's article rightly demands a dialectical examination of the Jewish-democratic question, asks Israeli society to contain the tension and maintain this complicated and vital connection.
However, I was upset by the nightmarish scenario painted by Sheleg of the day when Judaism tramples democracy, which seems to suggest that preferring Judaism to democracy means choosing demography over morality. In the family portrayed by Sheleg, the particularist father, Judaism, bequeaths the ethnic element, whereas the universal mother, democracy, bequeaths the ethical dimension. Sheleg wants to have both of them rather than trying to choose one, which would cause a rift. But I want to hear my father's ethics as well - to draw on the values from the national and religious heritage too.
I hope for many years of productive tension between Judaism and democracy; but it is not democratic restraint that will prevent me from denying my neighbors' humanity but the Jewish heritage, which teaches that the image of man is in the image of God.
Jabotinsky's vision of a Jewish state
Yair Sheleg refers to the concept of "one flag," as it was formulated by Zeev Jabotinsky, and believes that it contains a clash between Judaism and democracy. But Jabotinsky was referring to the battle between the blue-and-white flag and the red one. The concept was unrelated to the differences that arise between democracy and Judaism.
Jabotinsky considered democracy a supreme value; he maintained that in the future Jewish state there would be equal rights for all. Jabotinsky wrote that if the prime minister was a Jew, his deputy would be an Arab, and vice versa. He saw no contradiction between the Jewish state and the democratic state.
Prof. Yaakov Amir
Hesder yeshivas are no burden
In response to "We need to end this arrangement," January 20
Nehemia Shtrasler lumps two groups into the same basket:the ultra-Orthodox, who benefit from the rights granted to them by Tal Law, and the students of the hesder yeshivas (which combine military service with Torah study ). That is an unfortunate distortion. It's true that the ultra-Orthodox, in general, do not serve in the Israel Defense Forces; that is not true of the Hesder yeshiva students.
Although most of the hesder students do compulsory service of only a year and a half, the majority of them serve in elite combat units, and at the end of the five years in yeshiva they continue to serve in the reserves for many years, many of them, in combat units. The graduates of the hesder yeshivas are not a burden on the public, but rather citizens who contribute to the country.
It is important to emphasize the significant difference between this community and the ultra-Orthodox one.
A quicker way to the traffic jam
In response to "Israel's High Court green lights massive revamp of Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway," January 19
The plan to expand Route 1 leading up to Jerusalem describes what will happen when it is completed: an improvement and addition of interchanges, a tunnel beneath the Castel, the expansion of the highway, etc.
From the gates of Jerusalem to Sha'ar Hagai there is a 30-kilometer highway with two lanes in each direction. Anyone who drives from Sha'ar Hagai to Tel Aviv knows that the speed of travel gradually decreases as one approaches Tel Aviv, to the point of slow creeping and stopping. The same thing happens in the direction of Jerusalem. The system of roads in the city and its environs does not enable the absorption and dispersal of those entering by vehicle, and traffic jams at virtually the only entrance are routine.
Therefore, according to the plan, in the end everyone will end up stuck at the bottleneck at the entrance, only they'll get there faster. The investment does not justify the damage that will be caused during the course of the work and at its conclusion.
Here are a few wiser alternatives for investing in infrastructure: Implement the European road safety standard (not the outdated American one ) and invest n safety accessories; complete the construction of the high-speed train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; repair all the roads in Jerusalem; build a subway system.