July 29, 2004
Tisha B'Av Today
I am disdainful of anyone who misappropriates the Torah to bolster his radical political views ("Tisha B'Av Today," July 23). I have been horrified when religious zealots used Judaism as a rationale for committing violence against others. But religious zealotry is not just reserved for the radical right. I found Aryeh Cohen's Torah Portion article just as repugnant, in which he stated that he will fast on Tisha B'Av not because of past atrocities committed against Jews, but because of all the atrocities that Jews today are committing against the less fortunate, particularly the Palestinians.
Not only was his invoking the book of Isaiah to call politicians in Jerusalem a "den of murderers" the epitome of chutzpah -- it was also the antithesis of what Tisha B'Av is all about. Cohen is right that we don't greet each other on Tisha B'Av -- but not because we are dissolving the bonds of community. We do so precisely because our fellow Jew is so beloved to us, and on Tisha B'Av we afflict ourselves by deprivation of those things we hold dearest.
Cohen would do well to remember that the real reason given for the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple is sin'at chinam -- senseless hatred against our fellow Jew. It's easy to pronounce guilt on the people of Israel from our cushy vantage point in Los Angeles, secure from the suicide bombers. But it's even more unforgivable to use our common faith as the basis for doing so.
Cohen is right to fast this Tisha B'Av -- in all probability we'll be mourning again next year because of such self-righteous condemnations of one's fellow Jew.
Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin , Kehillat Yavneh Los Angeles
Steve North is correct when he argues that the separation barrier stops terrorists and saves lives, as demonstrated by the relative lack of suicide bombers and other terrorism in the past nine months ("Fence Offensive," July 23). And he is probably correct to discount the International Court of Justice advisory ruling that the separation barrier is illegal. Israel has a right and duty to defend its citizens, and it appears that the separation barrier accomplishes that objective.
But North errs in not acknowledging and discussing the Israel Supreme Court's opinion that the separation barrier route is illegal because it needlessly creates hardship for Palestinians. The present route takes a significant fraction of Palestinian land, and that land effectively divides the West Bank forming isolated Palestinian regions. The route appears to be designed to negate the possibility of a future Palestinian state.
That seems a strange goal for the Israeli government because a viable Palestinian state is essential to assure that Israel remains a Jewish nation. If there is no Palestinian state, there is no two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem, which means there will be a single nation between the Jordan and the sea. And in a few years that nation will be majority Palestinian.
Jeff Warner, La Habra Heights
Thank you, Rabbi Hecht, for "A Blessing for the Father" (June 18). It was a blessing for all who read it.
Jill Comras, Canyon Lake
The Seal's Cross
Judy Gruen's column, "Our Cross to Bear?" (June 18) tries to draw a comparison between a cross on the Los Angeles County seal, which she characterizes as "tiny" and which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) objects to, and one displayed by the Ku Klux Klan in front of the Ohio State Capitol Building, which she calls "enormous" and which the ACLU defended. Gruen sees this as inconsistent, being anti-cross in one case and pro-cross in another.
She's missing the point. It's not a matter of what's being said, it's a matter of who's saying it. The county seal is the official symbol of the government, which is forbidden by the First Amendment from choosing sides when it comes to religion. The KKK cross was put on display by private citizens, who were exercising their rights, guaranteed by that same First Amendment, to freely exercise their religion and petition their government. Government. Citizens. Got it?
Richard S. Russell, Parliamentarian, Atheist Alliance International Madison, Wis.
I know I am in galus when the front page of the local Jewish paper (July 23) has pictures and story on meshugasim of Internet and Jewish OY VEY T-shirts ... instead of a cover of Kotel, Jerusalem or something related to Tisha B'Av coming on Monday night. Boy do I miss home in Israel.
Harvey Tannenbaum, Efrat, Israel
In "Ode to a Great 'Uncle'" (July 23) the program will be shown on HBO: Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 8 at 11 a.m.; Aug. 13 at 11:30 a.m.; Aug. 17 at 2:30 p.m. and Aug. 21 at 8 a.m.