March 11, 2009
Purim Spoof, Jacob and Esau, Chasidic Movements, Wagner Cover, Origins of Alphabet
Itzhak Perlman Concert
The concert was held in a social hall with 1,000 people crammed in, and Perlman refused to use a microphone when he spoke (“Perlman Plays Sinai Temple,” Feb. 27). Thirteen members of my family were in that social hall seated all over, starting from the 10th row from the stage. None of us could see, and none of us could hear.
Sinai temple has a beautiful sanctuary, with an excellent sound system. To hold a concert of this caliber in a social hall because Perlman wanted it to be intimate was ridiculous. If Perlman wanted it intimate, he should have given his concert in someone’s living room.
Someone should remind him that his fans and supporters deserve some consideration when they pay good money to see and hear him and cannot.
UCLA and Israel
Where is the Community Relations Committee of The Federation, and what are they doing to address the increasingly hostile and suffocating intellectual climate at UCLA toward Israel and, by proxy, Jews? (“Dust Over Campus Life: UCLA at a Crossroad,” Feb. 20). Where are the ADL and other major Jewish organizations, and what are they doing?
While I as a taxpayer and citizen can write letters, make phone calls and boycott institutions as an individual, a more organized community response may be more productive in ensuring Jewish students and professors their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
Academic freedom and scholarly balance are not just meaningless words but rights endowed and guaranteed to us by our state and federal governments.
Age of Lieberman
Surprise! Rob Eshman seems somewhat surprised and largely disappointed that Avigdor Lieberman and his philosophy is on the assent in Israel (“In the Age of Lieberman,” Feb. 27).
I understand why he’s disappointed, but I am a little perplexed as to why he’s so surprised. He points out that Lieberman’s 15 seats never should have happened, because only Russians should be attracted to Yisrael Beiteinu, as if political factions in Israel are such as they divide off into the their countries of origin, rejecting the Zionist philosophy that in the Jewish homeland all are brothers.
Isn’t it possible that Lieberman has Israel’s interests in mind, not the Russian community’s? And, it is this interest that resonated so strongly with the Israeli voter.
Israel is not Lebanon or some Third World backward nation, where tribal groups stand against each other, rather than standing for their own national interests. But, with a growing Lieberman constituency, Eshman apparently cannot distinguish the difference.
One must look at why Lieberman reflects the beliefs of so many Israelis. If Eshman wants to be disappointed, that is his prerogative, but please direct that disappointment to the right entity. It is once again, as always, Arab intransigence to accept the Jewish state and try in earnest to live in peace with the Jewish people.
Like Lieberman, enough Israelis voted to give him 15 seats because they are sick and tired of being terrorized and want change. Eshman, a sap who refuses to give up on the idea of Jewish-Arab unity in Israel, begins and ends his article about a wonderfully integrated children’s choir in Jaffa, where a diverse community of Jewish, Muslim and Christian children come together in song and tolerance to counter all the hatred from one side and the fear from the other.
Of the 2,000 families, how many Arab children actually take part in this community center? Ten? Twenty? Usually these kinds of programs attract only a handful of Palestinians but a much larger representation of Israelis. But, for what it’s worth, they do good work.
The bubble can burst further. When the participants reach the age of understanding the politics around them, they begin to take on the characteristics of their parents. Jews join the army to protect their families, and Palestinians throw rocks and express solidarity with Hamas, Fatah and suicide bombers in the struggle against the Jews.
This is a good time for a little sidebar. In the 1980s, I was involved in several international discussions at Givat Haviva in Israel, one of these international community centers like in Eshman’s article, where Jews and Arabs come together and discuss the things that bind them and the things that drive them apart.
I attended two of these discussions. Both times, there were almost 200 Jews participating and only five Arabs from nearby towns. The difference in numbers is significant.
But there is more. The second time I went was with a different group of 200 Jews, but the same five Arab participants took part in the discussion. Because of my natural suspicious nature, I inquired why they were the only ones who would come and both the Arab participants and the directors of the center could not give me a satisfactory answer.
Left to my own devices, I concluded that no other Israeli Palestinians wanted to participate because they wanted to remain as far removed from Israeli society as they could get. Not a good sign.
Lieberman has some different ideas about how to solve our problems with the Palestinians. And, Israelis responded to his ideas with a resounding yes during this recent election. Eshman must know that these people who voted for him were the same people who gave the Labor Party the mandate in 1992 for Oslo and Ehud Barak the mandate in the late ‘90s to finish the process off.
It didn’t work. And it didn’t work for one overwhelming reason. The Arabs don’t want to make peace with the Jews.
We want peace with them, but they do not want it with us. And, Barak, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and all the rest can continue to bang their heads against the wall as much as they want, but peace is not possible, at least not without some drastic changes in the Palestinian community.
What is clear is that after 61 years, Israel is still surrounded by enemies. A majority of Palestinians, almost 70 percent of their electorate, elected Hamas to rule them in 2006.
Israelis are sick and tired of the rocket attacks, the suicide bombers the hatred, the vilification and the death and destruction that has been wreaked on them for far too long.
Maybe it’s time to take a different approach. Apparently a clear majority of Israelis believe this to be so. They spoke with a clear voice in the last election by not only awarding Yisrael Beiteinu 15 seats but giving right-leaning parties 65 total seats in the Knesset.
I don’t think such a large block has been awarded to any political slant since the days of Ben Gurion. The left and the extreme left in Israel have largely been sidelined, at least for the time being.
Eshman and the many American Jews who think like him are going to have to understand that with a world getting more and more dangerous every day, with no end in sight, a change in policy is in order.
Iran is speeding toward the day when it will be able to dictate terms to the State of Israel. Do you really want to speculate on what those terms might be? Or, do we want to make sure that Iran never gets to that point.
The present policies of the Kadima and Labor parties have shown to be ineffective in controlling the dangers to Israel. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Lieberman’s call for a loyalty oath for Israel’s Arabs and his idea of exchanging Arab land in the Galil for Jewish land in West Bank should be explored. Maybe it won’t work out, but let’s give the right a chance and see what happens.
Madoff Purim Spoof
There is a thin line between satire and being inappropriate (Cover, March 6). This time you crossed the line. People have killed themselves, people are suffering, agencies and foundations are closing.
Too raw — too soon.
I was not happy when I saw your Purim cover with Bernard Madoff and the octomom. I am willing to laugh at many things, but not this time. Madoff has become the poster boy of the new Fagin. He has brought the old canards of anti-Semitism back to Page 1 and also has hurt many, many Jews and Jewish organizations, deeply.
I know many people who were unfortunate enough to have been duped by him, and they are not laughing either. As far as the octomom, she has shown complete disregard for the system, God and decency and has brought 14 innocent victims into the world that we as a community will have to support.
I think this cover was in very poor taste.
Allyson Rowen Taylor
Jacob and Esau
With all due respect to Simon Rawidowicz and his alter ego David Myers, I believe that all those interested in a viable peace in the Middle East must rethink his well-meaning but flawed notion that in Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, Jacob has become Esau (“20th Century Zionist Asks: ‘Has Jacob Become Esau?’” March 6).
I certainly agree, as the analogy implies, that Israel has relinquished the high road in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and taken on the mantle of the morally challenged aggressor. But by demonizing the biblical figure associated with the founding of the Arab nations, Rawidowicz takes with one hand what he grants with the other.
What is required for a full partnership is a rejection of the good-evil binary altogether and a reclaiming of the fundamental human twinship between the Jewish and Arab peoples.
Origins of the Alphabet
In his March 6 letter to the editor titled, “Hollywood and the Jews,” Neil Flowers states that the Greeks invented the alphabet. Not so. The alphabet was invented by a Semitic people — probably the Phoenicians but possibly the Jews.
As proof, look at the first three letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, beta, gamma. These words have no meaning in the Greek language. They represent vocal sounds only.
Now look at the first three letters of the Hebrew alphabet: alef, bet, gimel. Here the words represent sounds also, but more importantly, the words mean ox, house, camel, respectively. This shows that the Greek alphabet is derived from the Semitic alphabet, just as the English word “alphabet” is seen to be derived from Greek.
Robert E. Margolies
The cover with the picture of anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner and the caption, “Get Over It” (Feb 20), was the most insensitive cover The Journal has ever done. It was calculated to stir up controversy. Controversy is often OK.
However, it was also done in the full knowledge that it could cause intense emotional pain to some Holocaust survivors who saw the cover. That is anti-Semitism and unforgivable.
I threw the cover away before I took the paper in my home, and I have only secondhand knowledge of the Holocaust. Ironically, the article, “Why Wagner’s Music Deserves a Second Chance,” by E. Randol Schoenberg, did not use the deliberately offensive term, “get over it.”
You should be ashamed of yourselves.
In his Torah portion, “OCDism,” (Feb. 27), Rabbi Haim Ovadia claims that instead of serving God with joy and treating other human beings with respect and dignity, some Orthodox movements have turned religion into a set of rigid laws that “narrow our steps to keep us in a state of suspended animation.” I found this article to be very refreshing.
However, in suggesting that it’s time we trade OCDism for Chasidism and infuse our religious life with joy, happiness and calmness, he neglected to clarify to which Chasidic movement he was referring, as some Chasidic movements also have turned religion into a set of rigid laws, neglecting to treat each other with respect and/or dignity.