‘Realities of our homeland’

What a wonderful and important mission, to have members of the United States Congress see an unvarnished view of Israel  (“Two Bay Area members of Congress tour Israel, West Bank with J Street,” March 2). However, the j.’s reporting of this mission seems rather sparse and narrow, and it was unclear what you were trying to get across.

Were you taking issue with Congresswoman Speier’s (reasonable) characterization of the settler’s anti-democratic statement? Or, were you trying to (finally) show the S.F. Jewish community how extreme the settlers’ views actually are?

The Jewish community should thank J Street for promoting a trip that allows our important congressional leaders to see all realities of our homeland.

Naomi Jay   |   San Francisco


Consider this, Ms. Speier

All that I could think of, when reading about J Street’s tour for congressional reps to Israel and the West Bank, was how skewed it must have been.

The group met with members of a small town, Shiloh, who want their town to remain part of Israel in a two-state solution and, according to the article, “Some described a scenario in which Palestinians would be allowed to stay in their homes but not receive national or voting rights,” prompting Rep. Jackie Speier to say that “some people would call that apartheid.”

I wonder if Ms. Speier ever considered that 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab lands (1945-1970); 8,000 Jews were cleansed from Gaza (2005); and Arabs, who have 21 majority states already, are calling for the removal of all Jews — er, excuse me — Jewish “settlements” from the West Bank. I would welcome a comment from Ms. Speier telling us what she would call that.

Sheree Roth   |   Palo Alto


An education

I was grateful to learn two important things from reading the article about Rep. Jackie Speier and J Street. First, it showed me the dangerous and conclusively anti-Israel nature of J Street and how this disingenuous organization undermines support for our Jewish nation. And second, reading Rep. Speier’s take from her trip, “Some people would call that apartheid,” showed me a frightening degree of ignorance — not only of Israel but of international affairs — that should disqualify her from having any role in the running of our government. I am indebted to them both for the education.

Sloane Citron   |   Menlo Park


Hats off to everyone

Your article about Limmud was perfect, as was the weekend (“A radical approach to Jewish learning — I’m hooked,” March 2). Everything was fantastic. The mixture of groups and ages represented the Jewish people at our best. I do want to thank Mila Wichter who organized and brought to fruition this unique learning experience. As with any wonderful gathering, many people are to thank and my hat is off to everyone. Thank you for writing

about the group and thank you to our new Limmud.

Jo-Ann Jacobson   |   Alamo


Beauty of Limmud

On President’s Day weekend, 360 Jews of all ages gathered in Pacific Grove for an event put on by Limmud, a volunteer-run organization for Jewish learning that began in England.

We all came to study, shmooze and live as in a shtetl. Everyone had a nametag, but it never included any title, function or destination.  We all were identified by our first names.

There were more than six classes per hour that varied from art to Torah, Talmud to technology, Jewish singing to panel discussions on our Jewish narrative and others.

Meals were all kosher and we enjoyed the beauty of the Monterey Peninsula. 

One event was characteristic of Limmud. A group of young children were at the beach building a synagogue out of sand. One child said, “Oh we need a mezuzah.” Another replied, “What’s that?” The teacher and other kids explained.

That’s the beauty of Limmud.

Dr. Lawrence Wanetick   |   Walnut Creek


‘Misguided diatribe’

My heart empathizes with Mr. Khatib’s situation (“Spotlighting human rights inequities is not anti-Semitic,” March 2 op-ed), yet my logic resents Mr. Pessah’s lament, which lacks integrity and fairness.

Over the last 40 years, over 400,000 illegal aliens entered Israel unlawfully. Of these, 250,000 are ethnic Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza, many through arranged marriages. Their main purpose was to skirt Israel’s security safeguards, and a raw attempt to change the Jewish character of the Israeli society.

These undocumented immigrants flaunt Israeli laws; they take full advantage of Israel’s social and educational services without paying their fair share, since most live in the underground economy. Yet, the Israeli liberals and their USA supporters embrace these illegal aliens and are quick to elevate them to victimhood status. They ignore the fact that most of these ethnic Arabs despise the Jewish state, and would not mind to see Israel vanish from the Mideast.

Mr. Pessah’s misguided diatribe is nothing but another chapter in the vilification campaign against Israel. It plays nicely into the Palestinians’ narrative and USA progressives’ assault on Israel’s government.

Sam Liron   |   Foster City


Specious complaints

Tom Pessah notices what he claims are “human rights violations” in Israel — which has taken in thousands of Sudanese refugees and West Bank gays.

Here’s a sampling of what troubles him: The residency law, which does not grant automatic residency rights to the non-Israeli spouse of an Israeli citizen. Using gay rights imagery, Pessah claims the residency law “criminalizes relationships” between Israeli Arabs and West Bank Arabs. Yet such marriages are perfectly legal in Israel. By contrast, the Arab world criminalizes marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman, and all gay relationships are capital offenses.

Further, the Arab states routinely discriminate against non-Arabs in land matters: Copts cannot build churches in Egypt. Jews cannot buy land in any Arab state. The PLO executes West Bank Arabs for leasing to Jews. But these human rights violations do not trouble Pessah. Rather, he is bothered that the Jewish National Fund purportedly does not lease land to Arabs.

Pessah’s specious complaints about Israel distract from the horrendous atrocities occurring daily in the Arab world, enabling the crimes to continue.

Seth Watkins   |   Menlo Park