Reforms are needed in U.N. — the organization’s unfair

The reaction from the United Nations after the terrorist attacks in Turkey has been very alarming. While it took the U.N. five days to condemn the attacks on the two synagogues, it took only about five hours for the U.N. to condemn the terror attacks when they were on British targets.

Whether terror attacks are against British, Jews or Muslims, they should always be condemned by the nations of the world with great haste — without regard to who the victims are.

Unfortunately, the U.N. failed to be fair this time. It just shows the level of how dramatic reforms must be made within the present U.N. system.

Eli Shirayanagi | San Mateo

‘Expendable pawns’?

Ian Volman (Nov. 21 j.) says the analogy between World War II and the Arab-Israeli conflict is bad because “Israel has unequivocally won the war already.” He says this in response to the contention that until Israel decisively beats the Palestinians as the Allies beat Germany and Japan, there can be no talk of peace.

The Palestinian Arabs have been treated as expendable pawns by other Arab nations for over 50 years. Whether they live in refugee camps in the countries bordering Israel or in the West Bank and Gaza, they are fed a diet of hatred and misery, suffused with the illusion that they will one day return to “Palestine” and displace the Jews.

Israel can never end this unceasing war unless the Arab nations surrounding her decide unanimously that the killing must stop.

Israel can never win the hearts and minds of Islamic extremists no matter what agreements are signed. These inhumane murderers must indeed be decisively defeated wherever they are if Israel is to enjoy a normal existence.

To paraphrase the late Golda Meir, only when Arabs love their own children more than they hate us, will there be peace. At this time, that notion seems remote.

Desmond B. Tuck | San Mateo

‘An outrage’

For Ian Volman (Nov. 21 j.) to quote Martin Luther King as a justification for Palestinian terrorism should be an outrage to what King stood for.

It shows a shocking ignorance of both Middle Eastern and American history.

King and his associates did not call from their pulpits for mass murder of southern whites; they did not carry out or support attacks on southern law enforcement, much less terrorism against women and children; they did not call for the elimination of either the southern states or the United States of America.

Israel sought to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza shortly after the 1967 war, asking only for peace; the response of the Arab states at the Khartoum conference was “no peace, no recognition, no negotiations with Israel.”

Israel had learned after the 1956 Sinai campaign that withdrawal without any peace settlement only led to further war. The PLO at that time didn’t even make a pretense of accepting Israel’s existence, and was conducting acts of terrorism the world over (remember the 1970 airplane hijackings and the 1972 Olympic massacre?).

Michael Harris | San Rafael

Helping Israelis

In Israel, 1.3 million people lived in poverty in 2002. Israel’s total population is just over 6 million. That means that every fifth Israeli is living in poverty.

After reading the above statistics and talking with my grandpa, after his semi-annual trip to Israel, I had the same thought you probably have: “What can I do to help?”

Israel has a security and economic crisis. Unemployment is peaking, tourism is at an all-time low, and many people are losing their jobs. Israel needs its people to show support and help strengthen the economy.

Each product you purchase helps keep someone in a job. The place we are ordering from has 50 vendors with approximately five employees each. That’s 250 people whose jobs are more secure.

I have worked with an Israeli merchant who has given us a great discount and, 15 percent of the price goes to one of four charities of your choice. You will be helping keep Israelis in work and help the Israeli charities.

The charities are: 1.5 Million Penny Drive; Latet: an Israeli humanitarian relief organization; Magen David Olam: and One Family Fund: relief for Israeli victims of terror.

Daniela Buchman | Palo Alto

Not ready for peace

The Palestinians had a chance for a peace based on generous and unprecedented offers by the state of Israel. The Palestinians are not ready for peace. Peace cannot bloom while Palestinian curricula continue to teach hatred and destruction of the Jews and Israel. The Palestinians will not be ready for peace until their religious leaders stop teaching that Jews should be driven into the sea and Israel be eradicated from the map of the Middle East.

Israelis and Israel want peace. Peace will not happen until the violence stops. Peace will not happen until the Palestinian leadership chooses to teach their people peace.

Bob Cohen | Menlo Park

Not afraid

A few weeks ago I read in j. that Rabbi Nelly Shulman from Saint Petersburg came to San Francisco and was a speaker at the Congregation Sherith Israel. What was interesting that she could express herself as being Jewish. She ate matzah at Pesach and could celebrate some other Jewish holidays.

Before, no Jew could do the same as Shulman. All Jews were opposed by the Communist Party and the Soviet regime, and we didn’t know anything about our beloved Jewish religion.

Shulman wasn’t afraid to be a Jew. And when she was a speaker at Sherith Israel, she tried to express the fact that to be a Jew is very important. That’s true. It’s all-important to be a Jew — and to support the state of Israel.

Russia or former Soviet Union still has a lot of anti-Semitism.

Paul Shkuratov | San Francisco

‘A sacred moment’

Thank you for the wonderful article about our work at the Jewish chaplaincy at Stanford. We are very fortunate to be part of the office of community and patient relations at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, in the spiritual care service which provides spiritual care to all patients, families and staff.

I should share the following clarification with you. Your story opened with my experience with the family of a 13-year-old Afghanistani Moslem boy dying of leukemia. I happened to be visiting a patient at the children’s hospital, and as a hospital chaplain was asked to see them.

The family had been praying for the boy to move on to the next world. With their permission, I joined them at the bedside. I encouraged them to pray and I stood silently by and listened as they prayed. I did not pray to Allah, as the article suggested.

The father, upon finishing his prayer, turned to me and said, “We can let him go now.” At that very instant, the boy died. It was indeed a sacred moment filled with awe.

Bruce Feldstein | Stanford

director, the Jewish Chaplaincy

Stanford Hospital and Clinics

Irrelevant photo?

I wonder why you illustrated Steven Florsheim’s column with a picture of Terri Schiavo. Lacking a terminal illness, a sound mind or an advance directive, she constitutes a very poor parallel to the author’s mother, and would not qualify for the Compassion in Dying program.

The Schindler family has endured a far different tragedy than the Florsheims. The article would have been equally effective without the irrelevant photo.

Nina Wouk | Menlo Park

EDITOR’S NOTE: We agree that the Terri Schiavo case isn’t an exact parallel to the Steven Florsheim situation, but felt that both dealt with the question of dying with dignity.

Sexual trail-blazing

I am delighted by the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that same- and opposite-sex couples must be given equal civil marriage rights under the state constitution.

Indeed, whenever I officiate at a wedding ceremony, I precede the breaking of the glass by saying that one aspect of the broken world I hope we will mend and heal is the difficulty in some of celebrating marriages of two men or two women.

This ruling strengthens the institution of marriage immeasurably by opening it to hundreds of thousands of loving couples who have been barred from its joys and responsibilities. So Massachusetts has taken a profound step forward not only in civil rights but in spiritual growth.

I hope rabbis and congregations everywhere will respond by making clear that they welcome the creation of same-sex marriages on exactly the same terms that they uphold for any other marriage.

Outside Massachusetts, it will still be necessary for rabbis to work out the details of ketuvot to accomplish the same protections for same-sex marriages that the civil law gives opposite-sex couples. May the day come soon when all our states and nations follow in the path Massachusetts has blazed.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow


director, The Shalom Center