Letters Week of June 16, 2005


Sounding off on cemeteries, Gaza and the Israeli government

Want a Secure Cemetery? Relocate Rachel to France
Jonathan Tobin errs when he states that Rachel's Tomb "has the distinction of being one of the few Jewish holy spots in Israel that's not also claimed by Muslims" (A Matter of Opinion: "The 'Martyr' and the Matriarch," May 26).

In fact, for most of the last decade, Palestinian spokesmen have vociferously claimed the site to be the Mosque of Bilal.

It is certain that the grave will be dug up before the conversion of her tomb (after its eventual surrender) to the Mosque of Bilal.

This will likely coincide with the removal of thousands and thousands of Jewish remains from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem when it, too, is surrendered as a future part of the "peace process."

But the location of reburial remains is problematical. It seems ridiculous to bury them in any part of Israel, as the excuses offered by the government for the surrender of Gaza can extend to any land under Jewish sovereignty.

However, the government of France has denounced vandalism of Jewish cemeteries in their country. Since it has been more honest about this than Israel, it would appear sensible to transport all Jewish remains for reburial there.

There can be little doubt of the tender solicitude of the French for dead Jews. Their interests in living ones is a different matter.

Nahum J. Duker, M.D.
Melrose Park

Jonathan Tobin replies:

While some Muslims may now claim the site, even under the rule of the Ottomans, Rachel's Tomb was always considered exclusively Jewish.

Dissenters Have the Right to Speak Up About Gaza
Jonathan Tobin repeated a variant of the standard, last-defense retort typically made to those who oppose "disengagement" from Gaza: That unless you move to Israel, you have no right to disagree with the Israeli government's position (A Matter of Opinion: "Dialogue of the Deaf," June 2).

A complete negation of that position is the silence, based on hope, that led to disastrous results before.

Remember Oslo? That, too, was the official government position, and it has proven to be the greatest and most costly mistake for Israel and all who care deeply about the Jewish homeland. The knowledge of what that wrought alone cries out for dissent.

For those convinced that removal of Jews from the Gaza Strip is another disastrous decision, we are compelled to express that opinion, or at least demand government representatives to provide defensible explanations for it.

And what about all the groups, such as Brit Tzedek, Peace Now and Rabbis for Human Rights, who routinely criticize Israeli actions?

Despite their critiques, they are not, and should not be, told to move to Israel or shut up.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus
Greater Philadelphia District
Zionist Organization of America

Israeli Officer Needed to Hear Tough Questions
It's unfair for Jonathan Tobin to view people who fear appeasement as engaging in a "Dialogue of the Deaf" (A Matter of Opinion, June 2), when challenging the Israeli government's decision.

Even those who hope for a two-state solution are uneasy in the face of daily reports of increased terrorism.

As a member of the Board of the Zionist Organization of America, I was authorized to ask one question of Lt. Col. Lior Lifschitz when he visited Philadelphia last month.

It is inappropriate to characterize the other questioners as "ZOA tormenters" because, if they were ZOA members, they were querying solely as individuals. It was even necessary to correct the speaker when he used the phrase "occupied territory," instead of "Gaza, Judea and Samaria."

Recalling how Israel was almost dismembered a half-decade ago, this adage is apt: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Robert B. Sklaroff, M.D.
Elkins Park

A Victim of a Bombing, and a Lover of Israel
I was saddened to read about the death of Yona Malina (World Briefs "1995 Terror Victim Dies of Wounds," June 2).

I met Yona in Israel in 1995, when we both enrolled in Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem, as new immigrants to Israel.

Yona, the only Swiss immigrant, was outgoing, bright and the only person who had a connection with everyone on the program due to his gift of speaking several languages.

He was the son of Holocaust survivors who only discovered he was Jewish when he was 18. Yona embraced his Jewish identity with a passion, and felt truly whole and at peace upon making aliyah.

Shortly after the end of our five-month program, Yona was on a bus to the Hebrew University when a suicide bomber exploded on board. He was grievously injured in the attack and paralyzed from the neck down. While still in a coma, his parents transported him back to Switzerland for treatment.

When he awoke, he was livid to have been taken away from Israel. Despite his condition, he fought to return there – and did – living out the rest of his years in the place he truly considered home.

Daniella Slon
Manager of Electronic Communications
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia


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