Letters to the Editor (December 26, 2011)

Protecting Judaism from religious Zionism's extremists

In recent years, Jewish studies in the state education system have deepened. A number of committees have been formed to examine the issue, including during the term of the current education minister, Gideon Sa'ar. These committees have pushed for the creation of teacher training programs in Jewish studies. The disciplines include Bible studies, Jewish philosophy, oral Torah teachings, Jewish history and Hebrew literature, as well as the Jewish way of life as part of Jewish culture.

The approach in teaching these subjects emphasizes Jewish, universal and humanistic values, the "gentle ways" of the Torah and Judaism's paths of patience and love of others. This kind of Jewish education seeks to deepen nonreligious students' knowledge of Jewish sources and religious texts, strengthening their Jewish awareness. Exposure to such material is meant to soften the alienation the nonreligious public sometimes feels regarding Jewish religion and culture, and bring the secular and religious communities closer.

But today, hundreds of teachers and thousands of teenagers are shocked by the growing extremism of the religious Zionist community. They see Jewish sources interpreted in ways contrary to modern ethics and democratic values: the preference of land over the sanctity of life, the preaching that death is preferable to hearing a woman's voice, the prohibition against renting apartments to non-Jews, buses that separate men and women, and hilltop youth who throw stones at an officer in the Israel Defense Forces.

This behavior is characterized by the belief in the absoluteness of religious truth, whose source is divine commandment. Such an approach suffers no skepticism or true reflection and denies its students doubt or open questioning.

The confusion among many religious people should not prevent Jewish-Israeli youth from studying Judaism in depth. Others should not be allowed to dominate Jewish sources with warped interpretations that distort our cultural and religious heritage and that have already led to the assassination of a prime minister.

Based on an acquaintance with Jewish texts and the ways they have been used, such pupils have the right, even the obligation, to go out into the city squares with their teachers and make Judaism's ethical voice heard.

Prof. Uzi Ravhon and Dr. Aharon Ditscher

Directors of the Revivim program for training teachers in Jewish studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Is this a boogeyman?

In response to "Are the Iranians rational," December 20

Reuven Pedatzur assumes that the Iranians are rational, therefore "Israel's deterrent capability suffices to prevent any Iranian leader from entertaining thoughts about firing a nuclear warhead at it." Consequently, "the time has come to stop complaining about the boogeyman of existential threat."

These words are based on the assumption that an existential threat to Israel is possible only if the enemy has a nuclear capability, and since Israel has deterrent powers, the existential threat disappears by definition. This assumption is wrong. The State of Israel seeks to deter a full-fledged Arab attack aimed at destroying it.

Since the Iranians are rational, they will not launch nuclear weapons at Israel, but will rather deter it from using its deterrent power against a full-fledged Arab or Iranian attack that might endanger Israel's very existence. Is this what is meant by the "boogeyman of existential threat"?

Moshe Azar


Men's divorce-law machinations

In response to "On the backs of young children," December 20

Merav Michaeli touches on an extremely important subject. Quietly, away from the spotlight, a dangerous step is brewing to change the legal situation under which, in a divorce, the infant or toddler almost always remains with the mother.

Changing the law is meant to give the divorcing man a whip to threaten a woman who refuses to accept absolute financial humiliation. It's hard to imagine more effective emotional blackmail of a mother of young children than the statement "they'll take away your children!"

In the current legal situation, many men try to prove that their wives, the mothers of their children, are unworthy mothers (an entire industry of "parental capability testing" revolves around such battles ). Such efforts are meant to "take away their children" in revenge for these women's audacity in filing for divorce and demanding their rights.

Shai Miller


The secular majority

Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau's "kosher electricity bill" is one of many examples of decision-makers not caring about the interests of the public - the middle class that pays taxes and serves in the army.

Still, this case contains a glimmer of hope as we witness an attempt to protect the country from religious domination and the loss of democratic values.

Landau withdrew the bill after it was attacked on the Internet, including many Facebook posts and a petition that collected 15,000 signatures in less than two days.

Secular people must begin to guard their interests, and today that mission is easier than ever. When a change can be made just by a click of the mouse, there really are no more excuses.

No one will protect our country from the capitalists and the submission of politicians to ultra-Orthodox extortion. Secular people are the majority, and therein lies their power. If they don't wake up and unite, they can only blame themselves for the outcome.

Noam Gat

Tel Aviv