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The Rambam wrote that anyone who takes midrashim literally is a fool and brings shame on our sages. If one is not obligated to accept midrashic stories as literal truth, why then do many of us feel we must accept as infallible every non-halachic pronouncement to be found in the vast corpus of rabbinic literature – even when those pronouncements cast the Torah in a less than positive light?

Shmuel Haber
Jerusalem

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Israel, Palestine And History

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld’s fine article (“The Speech Obama Didn’t Make,” op-ed, April 19) needs clarification. He writes that “Palestinian Arabs were granted a state by the United Nations in 1947.” Not so. The passage of the Partition Plan by the UN General Assembly was a recommendation to the Security Council, which never acted due to the Arab rejection and invasion.

He also writes, “It was a crime of the Palestinians to attack it….” No, it was a crime of the Arab nations, as the word “Palestinian” meant “Jew” until long after 1948. Dr. Gerstenfeld uses the word “ Palestinian” to mean the Arabs west of the Jordan River. But present-day Jordan was created in 1946 out of 78 percent of the territory of the Palestine Mandate and Israel was created in 1948 out of part of the remaining 22 percent. Thus all Jordanians are Eastern Palestinians and all Israelis are Western Palestinians.

Dr. Gerstenfeld also states that “In 1967, after Israel conquered the territories west of the river Jordan …” Added to those words should be “after being attacked by the Kingdom of Jordan.” And the statement “then you [the “Palestinians” west of the Jordan River] can help build a second Palestinian state in addition to Jordan” should be corrected to “then you can help build a second Arab Palestinian state in addition to Jordan” (for Israel is also a Palestinian state).

Edward M. Siegel
New York, NY

Hawking’s Boycott

If Stephen Hawking, as a scientist, wants to be logical in his boycott of anything associated with Israeli technology, including conferences that are being held in that nation (Week in Review, May 17), he should extend his efforts to banning the use of Israeli inventions, technological advances and products.

Unfortunately, such an action would render his ability to communicate nearly negligible as that ability is heavily dependent on computer chips pioneered by Intel which originated in Israel. In addition, Israeli research on ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), from which he has suffered for years, would no longer be available to him.

Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, MD

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