Congratulations to Prof. David N. Myers and Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller for having the courage to speak the truth about Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem ("Ceding Control," Jan. 19).
Mythologizing a history of Israeli control over the Temple Mount does nothing to advance the cause of peace. Both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have enough real issues that will require resolution in any final agreement. We must not permit the Temple Mount to become the subject of revisionist idolatry or to be misused by those (whether Jew or Muslim) who would seek to derail or delay a final peace accord.
Douglas E. Mirell, President Progressive Jewish Alliance
David Myers and Chaim Seidler-Feller predicate their argument for Israel's accession of the Temple Mount to Palestinian sovereignty on logic. But if by logic they mean reason, then any reasoning human being, having witnessed the ransacking and destruction of Joseph's Tomb, the lynching of the Israeli soldiers in Ramallah and Arafat's own irredentist insistence on the right of return, must conclude that the Palestinians are not ready for peace, nor may they be for generations.
But it is clearly not quite enough for Myers and Seidler-Feller, who then admonish us to adopt a broader historical perspective by accepting centuries of Muslim suzerainty of the Temple Mount as defining the status quo. I don't know about their view of history, but mine predates the construction of the Al Aksa Mosque by a few thousand years. Our destroyed Temple, as atavistic as it may seem to logical men like them, stills exerts a powerful emotional hold on my imagination and beliefs. This is our national status quo, and I frankly see no reason to upset it.
It is time we all woke up to an irrefutable fact of life: The Arab nations don't demand the Temple Mount because it is Islam's holiest shrine or symbol, but because it is Judaism's. They are abundantly aware of the damage the removal of Judaism's holiest site will wreak on our consciousness as a people.
Avi Davis, Westwood
Prof. Steven Spiegel's article was a great and sometimes surprising primer on the problems of the Middle East ("Israel 101," Jan. 19). I've got one question that he didn't include, though.
The Palestinians and others have claimed that the Israelis have denied Palestinians their civil rights, both in Israel proper and the occupied territories. What exactly has Israel done?
David Seidman, West Hollywood
Prof. Steven Spiegel responds: David Seidman refers to two distinct problems, neither one of which is a civil liberty question involving Israel.
Today, the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live under Palestinian Authority (P.A.) rule; therefore, complaints on civil liberty matters should be directed to the P.A. The Palestinians do complain, however, about a variety of actions which adversely affect their daily lives that Israelis take in an attempt to control terrorism and violence. These include blocking Palestinians from working in Israel, preventing Palestinians from moving freely within the territories and controlling the entrances into and exits out of them, cutting down olive trees and closing the Gaza airport intermittently. Israeli authorities are loath to pursue these security measures, because they create a basis for terrorist support by weakening the Palestinian economy and embittering the population, but during periods of increased violence, such as the present, they view them as necessary and unavoidable. The Palestinians also deeply resent land confiscations associated with the expansion of settlements.
The Israeli Arabs, by contrast, are citizens under Israeli law and enjoy full rights therein. However, most Israeli Jews recognize that discrimination against Israel's Arab population is widespread. This discrimination covers broad areas, including education, economic status, public services and housing. As Americans know well, democracies, especially young democracies, are not exempt from discriminatory practices. Arab rioting at the outset of the intifada in early October revealed the extent of Israeli Arab resentment, which has led to many proposals for programs to begin to correct past mistakes and injustices.
I just returned from my eighth trip to Israel as part of the United Jewish Communities' Solidarity Mission. Out of some 900 people attending, the L.A. Federation portion was more than 160.
Israel is not the same place it was when I was last there some 14 months ago. The mood is very somber; there is less hope in the air. But it is still a safe place to be if you are careful. Some people thought I was crazy to make this trip; I think I would have been crazy not to. There was a great appreciation from Israelis that so many American Jews came. If you have ever thought about going, now is the time to go. American Jews have it pretty easy. Israel needs you to show your support. These solidarity missions are cheap, and there is one leaving every month.
Howard Welinsky, via e-mail
I wonder how many other citizens, here and abroad, watching the inauguration of the 43rd president of the United States felt as excluded as I when the invocation and benediction were offered in the name of Jesus Christ.
Dodi Fromson, Brentwood
Thank you for your Shivyon Minyan article ("One of a Kind," Jan. 19). The success of the minyan is due in no small part to the support of the staff and students of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. Rabbi Rosen was our intern for the first 18 months, but Daniel Greyber and Cheryl Peretz were our interns at the time of our move. They stood with us at a difficult time. Julie Kozlow is our current rabbinic intern, and we are grateful to her and her colleagues who help make our service so vibrant.
Annette Berman, Co-Founder Shivyon Minyan