‘The Great Mystery’

I had just finished my own personal essay on the topic of death and Jewish beliefs when j. arrived. And guess what I find upon opening the first page, but the July 16 column “Death is the great Jewish question mark,” by Jay Schwartz. My questions focus on: Is there indeed an afterlife, and my conclusion thus far is that, regardless of what the mystics have written in language the ordinary person can understand, that no one really knows. It cannot be proven scientifically. It is still The Great Mystery. And perhaps that is how God means for it to be. That, as the columnist said, you should live this life doing good, helping and serving others. Tikkun olam. This in itself has its own rewards.

Diane Levin | Aptos

French hypocrisy

Isn’t it hypocritical that Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, representing a country that has slaughtered millions of blacks, is in France while, a few days ago, President Jacques Chirac announced that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was not welcome anymore because of his recent declarations related to anti-Semitism in France? It is time for France to restore its tradition of human rights and stop being hypocritical because of economic and political interests.

Philippe Suchet | San Francisco

‘Friend’ of community

In Dan Pine’s article of July 23 on the upcoming Dovetail National Conference for Intermarried Families, he states that I am a member of the First Presbyterian Church. I am in fact a “friend” of the community and it is my wife who is a member of the church.

My status as a Jewish friend of a Christian community mirrors the status of K’rov Yisrael recommended by the Tiferet Project for non-Jewish friends of Conservative Jewish congregations.

Rabbi Stuart Kelman, one of five Conservative rabbis who wrote the book “A Place in the Tent: Intermarriage and Conservative Judaism” as part of the Tiferet Project, will speak about this proposal at the conference. The book will soon be available from EKS Publishers.

Oscar Rosenbloom | Palo Alto

Impact of Zohar

I am the person who was commissioned by the Pritzkers to translate the Zohar. Over Shabbat, I came across a piece by Joe Aaron in Chicago that was reprinted here, “Is Madonna the poster child for the new Jew?” (July 9 j.). The first part, on Madonna, I found intriguing and provocative. I would agree with him that the Jewish world needs to be shaken up.

As for the Zohar, I differ with him. I feel that it can and will have a widespread impact on American Judaism. No doubt, it is a demanding text; but it’s worth the effort. Among the throngs attracted to the Kabbalah Centre, there will be a considerable number who want more learning: more Kabbalah and a little less self-help and superstition. Some of those will delve into the Zohar in a more serious way.

The first two volumes of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition have been well received. A significant number of rabbis are teaching Zohar study using our edition. The project hopefully will bring back a lot of folks who have wandered away or who got bored by what they experienced Jewishly.

For this, we can all thank Margot Pritzker and her family.

Daniel Matt | Berkeley

Whistling past graveyard?

Addressing your recent editorial “realities”:

• Palestinians have never viewed the United States as an objective mediator. Would you regard the United Nations or European Union as “objective mediators”?

• Since people claiming to speak for a branch of Islam declared war on the United States, against whom ought we wage defensive war?

• Are American Jews supposed to accept Hamas suicide bombs in Jerusalem as the price of keeping them out of New York or Washington? (And wouldn’t a Hamas attack on U.S. soil finally prove Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, Hezbollah and al-Qaida are indivisible?)

• Aren’t Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia under assault by Islamic fanatics who continually carry out terrorist attacks in those countries?

• Haven’t Palestinian terror groups been committed to attacks on Israeli government officials (remember Rehavam

Ze’evi)? And didn’t they blow up a delegation of U.S. officials vetting Palestinian students for Fulbright scholarships?

Your editorial sounds like whistling past the graveyard, hoping that if we don’t face the evil in the dark, it won’t attack us. The time for timidity is past. President Bush has done the Palestinians a favor by showing them the limits of the bargain they can realistically hope for.

Stuart Creque | Moraga

Tunnels from Egypt

It is tragic that innocent Palestinian civilians are caught in this terrible war. Israel is forced to go after terrorists bent on her destruction because the Palestinian Authority refuses to lift a finger against them. As recently as May 15, Yasser Arafat told his people to “find what strength you have to terrorize your enemy and the enemy of God.”

The border between Gaza and Egypt is a rats’ nest of weapon-smuggling tunnels that often come up into Palestinian kitchens or behind baby cribs. The Toronto Star reported that these tunnels “come wired for electricity and ventilation, with tracks and winches to pull the supplies across from Egypt.”

Oslo gave control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. It is their responsibility to police the tunnel builders, the weapons smugglers, the bomb builders, the suicide bombers and the imams and mullahs who encourage them. Since they have refused to do so, Israel must protect her people. Peace will only come when the Palestinian leadership makes a sincere effort to defeat terror.

Sheree Roth | Palo Alto

Second side of rage

If you follow the mainstream press, you may think you know about Arab rage. For example, when a Palestinian terrorist leader or Iraqi “militant” gets killed, you get inundated with stories about the anger in the Arab streets.

But the other side of Arab rage is unfortunately rarely addressed.

Take the case of Sudan. In the past 20 years, more than 2 million Christian or Animist southern blacks were killed by the Northern Arab-Islamic government and its Arab militias. Slavery experts estimate that close to 100,000 blacks remain enslaved to Arab families.

More recently, the Arab rage struck again. In the western Darfur region, more than 10,000 black Sudanese have been “victims of ethnic cleansing” in brutal violence, which has displaced more than 700,000 fleeing rape and murder, according to the U.S. ambassador.

Shouldn’t the destructive brand of Arab rage receive at least as much media attention as their reactions to the killing of terrorists?

Philippe Suchet | San Francisco

‘Terrorism pays’

Unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon did not bring peace because of Israel’s “gesture of good will.”

The terrorists consider it a sign that terrorism pays. And why not? The withdrawal was because of the constant terrorist attacks. And what followed was not peace. There was an increase in bombardment of the northern cities and kidnapping of Israeli border guards.

Unilateral withdrawal from Gaza will convince the terrorists that terrorism pays. Why not? It is the terrorist attacks that are the motivation for unilateral withdrawal.

If Gaza becomes Judenrein, terrorism will not cease; it will be directed at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities instead of the “settlements.”

After the withdrawal, there will be no more need to smuggle weapons, explosives and terrorists through tunnels from Egypt. They can all come across from Egypt above ground with no one to interfere. The coastline will be unprotected; “goods and services” can be freely imported by the terrorists.

Lawrence M. Weiswasser | Avenal

‘Demographic myth’

Supporters of a unilateral Israeli retreat from Gaza claim a withdrawal is necessary so Israel will not have to rule over a large Arab population. But, in fact, Israel stopped ruling Gaza’s Arabs in 1994. The so-called “demographic problem” is a myth.

After Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo accords in September 1993, the first phase of implementing the agreement was called the “Gaza-Jericho First” plan. In the spring of 1994, Israel withdrew from the city of Jericho and about 90 percent of the Gaza Strip. All those parts of Gaza that contain Arab residents were handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

To this day, it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, which runs the Arab-populated areas of Gaza.

A further Israeli retreat would not solve the “demographic problem,” because there is no demographic problem. But such a retreat would certainly exacerbate the terrorism problem by making it much more difficult for Israel to combat Gaza-based terrorists.

Morton A. Klein | New York
national president, Zionist Organization of America

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