Letters to the Editor

Relative 'body count' isn't the issue

In the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, the number of people who have died is often used (and abused ) to imply the theory that "because more Palestinians die than Israelis, Israel must be the guiltier of the two parties."

Scratching between the surface of this logical concept shows that it fails at the first hurdle. The reason why more Israelis have not died is because Israel does everything in its power to protect its citizens from Palestinian terror: The Iron Dome system, in which Hamas rockets are knocked out of the sky by Israeli missiles, were implemented hundreds of times during Operation Pillar of Defense. If those rockets had hit their targets of Israeli civilian towns, who knows how many people would have been killed? Should Israel let the Palestinian rockets do their worst simply to make the numbers more even and thereby placate those who make this argument? Of course not!

Equally, Israeli homes and other buildings have bomb shelters, and there are public bomb shelters for those who seek refuge upon hearing an air-raid siren. Conversely, Hamas is firing rockets from civilian areas in a cynical effort to maximize Palestinian casualties if Israel responds directly to the location from where they are firing - which is a totally legitimate, indeed essential, action to take.

Israel even tries its utmost to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties - from canceling legitimate military strikes against terrorists if there are too many Palestinian civilians at risk, to dropping thousands of leaflets over Gaza advising people to keep their distance from Hamas terrorists.

Michelle Moshelian


Schools should focus on thinking, not enlistment

The Ministry of Education would like to encourage teachers to spur their students to achieve educational, social and moral excellence, stated a document it sent to junior high school and high school principals. According to the ministry, there is no incentive to increase teachers' salaries if there are no proven results on the ground. The educational message is clear: The teachers will get their students to achieve goals set by the ministry without being given adequate conditions, and the ministry will provide them with differential compensation.

According to the Ministry of Education's criteria for differential evaluation, it seems that the ministry is more interested in students being soldiers than in their being outstanding students. The importance attributed to proven increases in army enlistment and national service rates is double that attributed to increased numbers of outstanding students at the end of high school studies.

In recent years, the Ministry of Education has had a policy of "if it's not measurable, it doesn't exist." Now the ministry is announcing that the goals are the achievement rates in the matriculation exams and in the number of army enlistees. This is not a statement that affects differential compensation only; it is the Israeli government's definition of the word "education." These priorities reflect other ministry priorities. The schools that "fail" in the effort to achieve adequate enlistment rates and high matriculation exam grades, namely Arab state-run schools and Jewish schools in the periphery, are at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to educational investments in the State of Israel.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar would do well to listen to us teachers. We could tell him about long discussions with our students of subjects that are not included under the rubric of his "values-oriented education": about help for a student who entered high school and could barely read, about mediation between parents and students who were fighting with each other. We could tell him about everything that is impossible to quantify and that is also not necessary.

As a civil society we must present the ministry with a different model, a model where teachers run a complex and critical educational program, precisely the kind of effort that cannot be quantified. A model where the schools, teachers and students receive the resources necessary to set for themselves educational goals that are appropriate for their worldview, open to self-criticism and carefully and thoroughly evaluated by the state. Such an education system would perhaps be less successful in raising students' army profile, but would contribute much more to building an equitable and just civil society.

Raanan Forshner

History teacher and educational theory student


Can Netanyahu reverse course with the Palestinians?

We can rejoice at the existence of the Iron Dome system, but Hamas has significantly disrupted our lives, from Be'er Sheva to Tel Aviv. Maybe it's time to scrape the rust off our leaders' worldview and bring about a creative resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians. Can Benjamin Netanyahu make a U-turn and achieve a breakthrough?

Dr. Saar Ezra

Petah Tikva

Barak was a hero of Yom Kippur War

In response to "Barak's test" (Opinion, Aluf Benn, November 18 ). In his essay, Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn did a disservice to the fighters of the armored battalion and its commanding officer Ehud Barak, apparently due to ignorance of the facts. The statement that Barak was unimpressive in his performance as a tank commander in the Yom Kippur War is at odds with reality.

As the author of "The Chinese Farm" (Ma'ariv Press ), published on Yom Kippur eve 39 years after the war, I conducted a full investigation about the fighting of Armored Battalion 100 and Barak, its commanding officer. Armored Battalion 100 was an improvised force, put together in the first week of the war by Barak, who flew back to Israel from Stanford University, where he was working on his master's degree in systems analysis.

Barak, the most decorated commanding officer of the elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal ), was appointed emergency battalion commander in the Armored Corps. At the Armored Corps base in Julis, he recruited commanding officers and tank teams, most of whom had flown back to Israel from studies or trips abroad. The battalion went to Sinai quickly, without the commanding officers in the turrets knowing their team members. In the early morning of October 17, the battalion was called to assist Paratrooper Battalion 890, which was caught in an ambush of murderous fire on the outskirts of the Chinese Farm. The scene Barak witnessed was one of dozens of dead and maimed paratroopers in the sand dunes. He gave the command to storm the area. The Egyptians met the tanks with missiles, and five tanks went up in flames. Yishai Yizhar, a commanding officer who was in the turret with Barak, was killed by a direct hit. The storming of the dunes became an extrication battle.

Battalion 100 and its commanding officer Ehud Barak were heroes of the war. They participated in the Battle of the Chinese Farm that determined the course of the war on the southern front, and the battles against the Third Egyptian Army west of the Suez Canal.

Ilan Kfir

Ramat Hasharon (The writer co-authored the 1998 biography "Ehud Barak: Israel's Number 1 Soldier.")