Hard-Liners Going Soft

Re “Conference of Presidents Backs Sharon Plan” (news story, February 21):

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is but one addition to a long list of once stalwart supporters of Israel’s national integrity to consent to the process of surrender so artfully labeled disengagement. Three years ago the executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, Malcolm Hoenlein, told a packed Toronto Federation audience that the settlers were part of Israel and would never be abandoned.

There are other stalwart hard liners who have jumped on the Sharon bandwagon, including Charles Krauthammer, Norman Podhoretz, Alan Dershowitz, Michael B. Oren, Elliott Abrams and Hillel Halkin and their many supporters and readers. Commentary and William Kristol’s The Weekly Standard are among the supporters of a lesser Israel.

Apparently they have forgotten that for two millennia Jews were expelled from their homes and communities by many countries. Now a powerful Jewish state joins those countries in expelling their own.

This illustrious band of hard-liners has, in effect, joined with the post- Zionists and universalists. Perhaps they don’t realize that along with the Michael Lerners of the world they can now say with Ariel Sharon, “We Are One.”

Dr. Marvin Maurer
(Via E-Mail)

Jews Don’t Expel Jews

Has Zionism become irrelevant in the Jewish state? Despite all the Yesha Council’s heartrending remonstrations, massive demonstrations by outraged citizens, and the recent Tel Aviv attack, Ariel Sharon has not been dissuaded from going ahead with the initial implementation of his defeated opponent Amram Mitzna’s plans to expel thousands of Jews from their homes.

Perhaps the only way to convince Sharon of the error of his ways is to encourage him to travel abroad. For in any major city he visits he will see thousands upon thousands of young Israelis from inside the Green Line who have already unilaterally disengaged from their homes in the Promised Land. In fact, approximately ten percent of Israelis have emigrated since the founding of Israel. Face to face with that disconcerting reality, Sharon may finally realize that the plan to expel thousands of the most patriotic Zionists is pure madness.

First, the plan discards all the historic Jewish achievements in Gaza and Samaria. Second, it mortgages the country’s future on a putative truce with terrorists who have launched a staggering 23,000 bloody attacks in the past four and a half years. Third, an ignoble expulsion of Jews can only lead to a tremendous decline in Israeli morale (already severely traumatized by years of horrible terror attacks).

The result of all this will be significantly more emigration, less immigration, and a precipitous decline in Israel’s power and prestige. Paradoxically, Israel’s demographic problem, despite all the ostensibly good intentions, will only worsen rather than improve.

Therefore, concerned American Jews – once again bereft of any genuine leadership as they were the 1940’s – spurred by us down here in Pensacola, America’s first settlement, must incessantly petition the president and Congress not to support or fund immoral Judaic cleansing.

The solemn vow of “Never Again” remains forever relevant. Jews do not expel Jews!

Chaim ben Zvi
Pensacola, FL

Sharansky’s The One

The disengagement is a terrible mistake and Sharon has become a desperate man who must be removed from power in a democratic way. He has created a regime which will do anything to achieve its goals even if it means repressing freedom of speech. Many ask, who should replace him? Netanyahu? Barak? Peres? They have been dismal failures as leaders in the past. All have followed a policy of appeasement that has only led to more Jews losing their lives and being maimed by Arab terror.

I would prefer a Torah observant Jew, but since that is impractical, I propose Nathan Sharansky. Sharansky is a man of courage. He defied the Communists in the former Soviet Union and was imprisoned for not compromising his principles. He is an honest man, unlike most politicians, and will not cave in to pressure. I can think of no one more qualified who has the faith needed to stand up to world pressure on Israel and defend our rights to the Land granted to us by God.

Yisroel Friedman
Rochester, NY

Portraying Orthodox ‘Dark Side’

Wendy Shalit doesn’t know the Orthodox community nearly as well as she assumes (“Must Orthodox Fiction Be So Fictional,” op-ed, Feb. 18). I hate to burst her bubble, but the Orthodox community has more than its share of hypocrisy, greed, immorality, criminality and every other type of bad behavior.

For a novelist to attempt to portray Orthodoxy in all its manifestations and yet ignore the dark side of Orthodox life would be both self-defeating and dishonest.

As a former resident of a heavily haredi neighborhood, I was all too aware of the problems that people like Ms. Shalit would prefer to wish away: spouse abuse, extramarital affairs, lack of business ethics, etc. Of course, most of the people in that community were and are sincere, God-fearing Jews. But for a group that prides itself on its religiosity, the number of those who were living a life of sham piety – doing all the outward rituals while behaving in ways that would shame the most amoral pagan- was appalling.

Ms. Shalit displays a none-too-subtle antipathy toward Modern Orthodox Jews, who, it seems, don’t measure up to her newfound level of observance. I notice, though, that she engages in the rather modern practice of holding on to her maiden name.

Chanie Hertzberg
(Via E-Mail)

Wonderful Bochurim

I was taken aback by the harsh criticism of our wonderful yeshiva bochurim and their roshei yeshiva in Ben Joseph’s letter to the editor (“From the Heart,” March 4). His comment regarding roshei yeshiva telling their talmidim that their attitude should be “iz kumpt mir” is simply not true and shows a lack of proper kovod haTorah to our gedolei roshei yeshiva. I have seen many roshei yeshiva at conventions, simchas and other gatherings, and they show beautiful derech eretz to their wives, talmidim and in general to all people.

Rabbi Moshe Shochet
Brooklyn, NY

Caregivers’ Support Groups

Several weeks ago in her column Dr. Yael Respler wrote about a caregiver’s dilemma. As a social worker who facilitates support groups for Orthodox women who are caregivers, I found the article so pertinent to the issues facing caregivers and shared it with the women in my group. They agreed that it echoed many of their own problems.

For those who find themselves in similar situations, the support groups can be helpful, supportive and educational and may in some way ameliorate pain and anguish on the part of caregivers by letting them know they are not alone.

Readers can call me for information regarding the support groups at 718-759-4402. Thank you for bringing this timely topic to the fore.

Muriel Mehlman
(Via E-Mail)

The Carnage On Israel’s Roads

The issue of the tragedies that regularly occur on Israel’s roads and highways is not a new one. And while it is commonly known that the staggering number of those killed or permanently maimed as a result of these traffic accidents far outweighs deaths caused by suicide bombers and other acts of terror, the mayhem and killing continues.

One would think that there would be an outcry, a grassroots attack plan, from the Israeli public to curb this self-inflicted carnage. And yet there appears to be none, or certainly nothing obvious or significant. We recently returned from Israel where we experienced – as unfortunately we always do – the trauma of driving on the roads there and wondering if Hashem would grant us the zechus to survive.

This is one area in which so many secular and religious Jews are united – united in their lack of derech eretz, their utter disregard for their own safety and the safety of their brethren. Certainly there are many Jews who do show respect and consideration to others, but the prevailing attitude appears to be the former.

Whether it was having motorists come within inches of hitting our car, or coping with religious men, women, and children stepping off the curb directly in front of our brake-screeching car while staring at us with a “You will stop for me” look on their faces, we were time and again confronted with sheer arrogance and a total disregard of the power that a three-thousand pound automobile or three ton bus ought to have.

We are tired of hearing excuses for such road behavior. No doubt Israelis live under terrible pressure, both economically and because of the matsav. But exactly how do these terrible accidents, which kill so many, make life easier for anyone? They are a tragic blight on the face of our beloved Israel.

We therefore ask gedolei Torah and other community leaders in America and Israel to address this issue as they’ve addressed the issue of lashon hara.

Those of us who grew up in America in the sixties remember the nationwide anti-litter campaign that created a new social attitude toward keeping the streets and highways of America clean. The campaign, which incorporated pride for the country as well as fines for littering, worked and continues to work today as the American mindset was changed to incorporate this value of communal cleanliness. It was a mega-media and educational campaign, and it made a tremendous difference in dealing with a sweeping social problem.

Keeping the streets of America clean pales in comparison to the need and preeminent mitzvah of keeping Jews alive and well on the streets of Israel.

Robert and Jan Cohen
Atlanta, GA
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel