Letters (November 6, 2009)

A selection of letters published in the AJN print edition of November 6, 2009

Settlement spokesman misquoted

ON my long flight home to Kfar Tapuach in Israel from a very intensive nine-day speaking tour in Melbourne, I had time to read through last week’s edition of The AJN (30/10) and was surprised to see a reader’s letter commenting on my presentation at Beth Weizmann on October 25.

The event and my tour were hosted by the Melbourne-based Australian Friends of Gush Katif and Shomron.

The program of the evening was drawn up and planned by my hosts. My agenda was clearly not a political one. I represent the Jewish communities in Shomron and part of my responsibilities, in the framework of the Shomron Liaison Office, is to reach out to Jewish communities around the world in an effort to correct the image of our communities.

This image has been smeared by biased media and opponents who have a political agenda that includes our destruction.

In the summer of 2005, the Israeli government carried out the disengagement from Gaza and the northern part of Shomron. Thousands of Jews were forcefully evicted from their homes by soldiers. Their homes, schools and greenhouses were razed to the ground because they belonged to Jews.

Jewish bones were dug out from cemeteries to be placed elsewhere. If this had been done any place else in the world and if those evicted had not been Jews, this would have been called ethnic cleansing and not dubbed disengagement. I never compared these actions to “pogroms”, as stated in your reader’s letter.

The Jewish soldiers who were commanded to carry out these deeds cried while doing so and have been scarred for life. Many of them needed psychological treatment to deal with their regrets and nightmares, as do many of the former residents of these townships and their children.

DAVID HA’IVRI
Shomron Liaison Office, Israel

The facts on Gaza pullout

WE wish to thank the Melbourne Jewish community for its widespread support of David Ha’ivri, executive director of the Shomron Liaison Office in Israel. During Ha’ivri’s recent whirlwind Australian lecture tour, he spoke to a wide range of people of all ages in the Melbourne Jewish community.

He visited schools including The King David School, Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges, and Leibler Yavneh College (due to VCE exam schedules the visits to Bialik and Mount Scopus colleges could not be arranged at this time).

He met with many prominent rabbis, spoke to a multitude of synagogues and youth groups, gave two well-attended public lectures and had a two-hour meeting with Michael Danby.

The keynote address at Beth Weizmann, attended by approximately 100 people, was one of the highlights of his tour. A moving letter, read to the audience by 13-year-old Mordechai Levin, written by his aunt who was forced to leave the family home in Gush Katif during the disengagement, gave a detailed account of the trauma suffered by the family.

Mordechai’s uncle, Asher Ben-Arush, has become legally blind, while his aunt Miriam suffered severe depression and had to spend months in hospital. In this letter, she compares the disengagement to a pogrom.

Henry Herzog (AJN 30/10) attributes the comment regarding pogroms to David Ha’ivri, who did not mention this term in his presentation. The same writer mentions that no-one was killed during the disengagement.

However, we wish to inform your readers that “there were actual suicides, as well as homicides, consequent to the disengagement, committed by Jews, and the surge in Kassam rocket attacks that has caused much more loss of life still, in terms of Operation Cast Lead”.

Those who speak of the “disenfranchisement of the local Arab populations” do not seem to comprehend that the answer is not “disenfranchisement of the Jewish populations of Israeli towns”, but the recognition of Jewish sovereignty in all Israel.

Many of the refugees from Gush Katif have not received accommodation or compensation promised by the Israeli government. In its efforts to appease world opinion, the present Israeli government has given away the land and homes of some of its citizens and left them disenfranchised. Where will it end and which communities are next?

Ha’ivri was able to open the eyes of many people in the Melbourne Jewish communities to what is really happening in Israel and has given them a greater understanding of the danger that now faces Israel in the 21st century.

MOSHE ELKMAN
Chairman, Australian Friends of Gush Katif and Shomron

Gush Katif expulsion

IN Henry Herzog’s letter (AJN 30/10) on David Ha’ivri’s presentation at Beth Weizmann on October 25, the only thing he appeared to get totally correct was David Ha’ivri’s title of executive director of the Shomron Liaison Office. He appeared quite confused on a number of accounts about what was said and by whom.

Mordechai Levin read out a letter written by his aunt Miriam, who described her family’s removal from their home at Gush Katif as similar to a pogrom for its traumatic impact on them and their lives. Herzog states that “no-one was even hurt” by the disengagement. Perhaps he needs to talk to former residents of Gush Katif and their families.

Better still, if he is willing to pitch a tent down on the banks of the Yarra River with his family, I would be quite happy to look after his home for him for the next four years or so. At least he could rest assured that after four years, he would have his house back. Better still, he could swap places with one of the displaced families of Gush Katif.

The constant capitulation of Israel’s governments to international pressure to disengage from its rightful areas is insulting to the memory of six million European martyrs; the tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers who lost their lives in countless wars; the victims -— dead and maimed -— of terrorist acts both inside and outside Israel; the dead of Hebron in 1929 and the Arab riots; and finally the memory of the chalutzim (pioneers) -— those Jews who made aliyah in the last 200 years and worked to make the State of Israel a reality.

They keep on giving away land to secure a “peace” that will not eventuate until they are prepared to stand up for it and refuse to allow themselves to bullied further from existence.

David Ha’ivri gave a very clear solution to the problem of disenfranchisement of both Arabs and Jews — that is to finally acknowledge Jewish sovereignty over the complete land of Israel. Only then will we have real peace.

ILANA LEEDS
North Caulfield, Vic

Liquor the wrong Shabbat lure

THE “Smirnoff and Sushi” advertisement (AJN 23/10, Sydney edition) promoting “Friday Night Fever at Central” was a little astounding, to say the least.

While I can appreciate such initiatives as sincere attempts to encourage Generation Y to attend shul on a more regular basis, surely the content of this particular advertisement raises some concern.

It negates frantic efforts by educators, parents and welfare advocates to prevent excessive drinking becoming the norm for our youth.

What then is the purpose of, say, Sydney’s Point Zero Youth Services? This group was established as a response to deep community concern surrounding antisocial behaviour and substance abuse by our youth.

Parents frequently ask schools for advice and support following alcohol-related incidents on Saturday nights where students congregate in parks or at parties “skolling” down shots of vodka and other spirits.

Yet post-school young adults are being lured by that same previously unacceptable drink.  What message is this advertisement supposed to be propagating?

Unlike traditional kiddush wine, vodka is hard liquor and one of the more damaging forms of alcohol.  Already liver damage is rising at an alarming rate among our young adults. A paper produced by the Australian Medical Association notes that alcohol accounts for 13 per cent of deaths among people aged 14-17.

It has been estimated that one Australian teenager dies and more than 60 are hospitalised every week from alcohol-related causes. By the age of 18, about half of both males and females are drinking at risky levels, yet the majority only classify themselves as “social drinkers”.

Smirnoff and sushi are associated with partying and cocktail functions: is this advertisement supposed to be the message for the spirit of Shabbat?

JOSH RUBIN
Woollahra, NSW

Where AJDS stands

ALAN Freedman makes a number of allegations about the Australian Jewish democratic Society (AJDS) that I believe to be incorrect (AJN 23/10). The AJDS policies are clearly stated on the website, www.ajds.org.au, and he and others interested in understanding where we stand should check it out.

The AJDS is accustomed to being a bete noire, but would appreciate being judged on our actual positions.

TOM WOLKENBERG
Glen Iris, Vic

Hidden anguish in marriage

IN talking about why so many marriages in the Jewish community are failing, Rabbi James Kennard (AJN 30/10) neglects to mention two of the most important attributes a person must bring to a marriage: honesty and integrity. Without either, any marriage is doomed before it has even begun, no matter how hard the couple perseveres.

Roughly five to 10 per cent of any population is not attracted to the opposite sex, but rather the same sex. In the Jewish community this is often conveniently swept under the carpet and ignored, if it is ever even acknowledged.

Many of these same-sex attracted people get married under pressure, possibly have children, find themselves in loveless relationships and the next thing is their marriages have fallen apart and they’ve got broken homes. Sadly, I’ve met all too many of these people.

What is lacking in these marriages is honesty and integrity, and the reason why is because of intolerant attitudes in the community that make it a taboo to be in a relationship with a person of the same sex.

The net result is false, hollow heterosexual relationships. The Orthodox community won’t even tolerate the idea of recognising same-sex Jewish relationships, let alone considering same-sex marriages (despite the position of the federal Government).

In this atmosphere of intolerance, same-sex attracted people will always be second-class and the marriages they find themselves in will inevitably be unhappy.

Perseverance is not the answer to sustaining a marriage if the foundation it is built on is one of lies. What we need to teach our children is honesty, integrity and that it’s okay to have relationships with the people they want to love, not the people they are expected to love. We might then find that the percentage of happy marriages actually increases.

MICHAEL BARNETT
Aleph Melbourne

Don Lane on Six-Day War

PETER Kohn’s viewpoint on the late Don Lane, “Trip Down Memory Lane” (AJN 30/10),¬† prompts me to some reminiscing of my own.

In 1967, not long after Lane had burst onto our TV screens, the weeks before the outbreak of the Six-Day War were abuzz with the events seemingly about to unfold.

At the request of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, I had become the spokesperson on radio and TV.

This was not only a matter of making myself available for the times in question, but on each occasion, as a practising physician, I had first to obtain the consent of the chairman of the Australian Medical Association Ethics Committee, the late Sir Angus Murray and, where university teaching times overlapped, the cooperative agreement of the Professor of Medicine at UNSW, the late Professor Ralph Blacket.

As the frequency of my requests demanding a prompt answer increased, both Sir Angus Murray and Professor Blacket gave their agreement in advance, provided no medical issues were canvassed, the interviews dealing exclusively with Israel and the Middle East.

Sydney’s media covered the events quite intensively, with in-depth interviews by such radio greats as Brian White, Ellis Blain and Anne Deveson, but outshining them all was a long segment on Don Lane’s show.

In the interview, I found myself on air with the late Gwen Plumb. Don Lane, through his penetrating and amusing questioning, somehow crafted an informative and thought-provoking resume of a complex subject with great sympathy and understanding.

The older TV aficionados among your readers may recall the occasion, as do I, with pleasure and appreciation.

DR JOACHIM SCHNEEWEISS
Former ECAJ president, Sydney, NSW

Move Hakoah to Randwick

WITH Hakoah shutting its doors this month, the question remains as to where a new site for Australia’s only Jewish social club can be found in the very expensive Eastern Suburbs area.

One place that could be a viable solution is on land that is in the Montefiore Home Complex in Randwick. After all, there is a very wide area in and around the complex at Randwick, and it would be advantageous and economically sound for the owners of that land, the Jewish Communal Appeal, to lease some of the property for the building of the new Hakoah premises for free.

The unenviable task of procuring expensive land that would be suitable for a club such as Hakoah is not easy in this climate of such high land prices in Sydney’s east, so why not seek to make do with what the community does own and save valuable dollars that can go into building a state-of-the-art facility instead of paying for land? This way, Hakoah is also owned by the Jewish community and we all have a stake in its future.

After all, Randwick, Maroubra, Kengsington and Coogee combined have a significant and growing Jewish community of well over 10,000 and rising, as more and more young Jewish families move out to those south eastern areas.

It would be ideal to offer these families a Jewish social club that is still only a few minutes’ drive from Bondi.

URI BUTNARU
North Bondi, NSW

If you would like to submit a letter, email [email protected]