Refusing to be enemies; Uninformed at Google; Jews of no religion; Sheikh Jarrah ‘squatters’; etc.

Fight against illiberalism

Congratulations to Karen Lehrman Bloch on the launch of her new magazine and on her courage in standing up for liberal values and braving the backlash of illiberalism from the left (“In this age of leftist illiberalism, I’m standing up for the truth,” May 7). She joins Bari Weiss and a select group of writers and reporters of integrity in speaking unpopular truths. The intolerance of the left is no less repressive than that of the right — in the end, both are enemies of freedom.

May her words ring loudly throughout the land.

Malka Weitman

My own lifetime of stuff

The recent “Act Two” column by Janet Silver Ghent (“Purging a lifetime of stuff that nobody wants — except me,” May 18) describes my situation exactly. It’s so hard to give up stuff that traces the history of my family and me.

So I was very interested when my adult son described his method of disposing of old stuff: If he has no plan to ever use it in the future, he holds the item in his hand, takes a photo of it on his phone and places it in a receptacle for things going out. Done. That way, he can remember it and show a photo of it to his kids. But he doesn’t have to store it anymore. Brilliant!

If only I could follow suit! Thanks for your article.

Karen Bergen

Jews of No Religion are Jews

In the early ’80s I spent two years in the Bay Area as the Young Judaea emissary. Regarding “What it means to be a Jew of No Religion” (May 19), I find it interesting to compare what it means to be Jewish in Northern California with what it means to be Jewish here in Israel.

There is, I think, a rising number of Jews of No Religion among the Jewish population. But in Israel, these Jews of No Religion live very Jewish lives even without the ritual practice of religious Jews. Names of people, streets and cities are Jewish, the “weekend” is Shabbat, and so on.

I would maybe summarize the Jewishness of Israel by paraphrasing our first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion when he famously said, “We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew.”

Avi Gonen
Kibbutz Ein Hashofet, Israel

Can’t return to status quo

Unless the U.S. and NATO are going to disarm Hamas (don’t make me laugh) and take responsibility for monitoring incoming armaments, then there can be no directive to halt operations (“Israel and Hamas agree to cease-fire after 11 days of bloodshed,” online, May 20).

Israel is responsible for the safety and well-being of its citizens. There is no daylight among Israel’s leaders, so this is not a dispute between Biden and Netanyahu. The U.S. military is in close coordination with the Israeli military and everyone knows there is information sharing and partnership.

Rockets are launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip early on May 12, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Abed Rahim Khatib-Flash90)
Rockets are launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip early on May 12, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Abed Rahim Khatib-Flash90)

The real action will be the terms of a cease-fire. Each side wants more than a return to the status quo. That is where Egypt and the U.S. can really make the difference.

What is depressing is that right now the Biden administration is not coming forward with a regional solution that does not just kick the can down the road for the next confrontation. There does not seem to be a U.S.-Israeli game plan to fundamentally change the dynamics in Gaza. That is the real long game.

Jeff Saperstein
Mill Valley

Contradictions in conflict

Some bizarre alternate realities with the Israel-Arab conflict:

Arabs want to dictate terms of settlement while vanquished in wars they launched and continue to celebrate as victories.

Israel is accused of genocide or ethnic cleansing against a people whose numbers keep increasing while real genocides and ethnic cleansing elsewhere in the Middle East go pretty much unnoticed or don’t trigger massive uproar despite huge number of casualties.

Millions of people who have never set foot in the Middle East and who couldn’t even place Israel on a map think they can summarize an entire geopolitical imbroglio with an internet meme they post on social media while also thinking they are expert on the topic.

Celebrities, academic institutions, political parties, social organizations, etc., all feel they must take a stand.

Random Jews, Jewish businesses and synagogues are attacked outside Israel (London, Toronto, New York City, L.A., Paris) by anti-Israel thugs who claim that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.

Laurent Goldsztejn
San Francisco

Refusing to be enemies

My Israeli friends are visibly and poignantly opening themselves to Refusing to be Enemies. They’re on the streets together with their Palestinian neighbors and co-workers and lighting candles in each others’ living rooms. My tears are bittersweet and my heart is cracked open and crying out to God to help us see each others’ humanity.

During the pandemic, I participated in a listening circle of Israeli/Palestinian women sharing our everyday lives. Each of us related life struggles, hopes and dreams and our gratitude, and our similarities couldn’t have been more obvious.

Now, every article I read, especially in Jewish publications, starts with the author claiming a side. Oh, how I long to read about being pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian.

Most of us will never have the answers or the directions to finding the path to peace. But we can hold the vision. We can follow our Israeli and Palestinian sisters and brothers and Refuse to be Enemies. And we can set the stage for the negotiators to be inspired.

Nancy Newman

Sheikh Jarrah ‘squatters’

One piece of the May 14 J. editorial stated, “Some Israelis assert claim to the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which Jordan occupied after the 1948 war … The problem is, asserting claims to regions that fell into Arab hands in 1948 is a slippery slope and a dangerous precedent, as are Palestinian claims to land that has been part of Israel since 1948” (“A painful road too often traveled in Israel”).

Your premise that war somehow negates documented Jewish ownership of property — be it real estate or art — is contradicted by dozens of Jewish claims after World War II against Germany, Austria, Poland and many eastern European nations. With clear documentation at hand, Jews have had their paintings (most notably, perhaps, “The Woman in Gold,” a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt) returned to descendants (Adele’s niece and Viennese native Maria Altman).

Israeli security forces clash with demonstrators during a protest against Israel's plan to evict Palestinians from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on May 10, 2021. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right Israeli lawmaker, is at right wearing a white kippah. (Photo/JTA-Olivier Fitoussi-Flash90)
Israeli security forces clash with demonstrators during a protest against Israel’s plan to evict Palestinians from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on May 10, 2021. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right Israeli lawmaker, is at right wearing a white kippah. (Photo/JTA-Olivier Fitoussi-Flash90)

Many Jewish-owned factories across Eastern Europe were either returned to their rightful Jewish owner (or family members) or compensation provided.

Jewish ownership of eastern Jerusalem property, purchased in the mid-19th century, is well documented in the meticulous records of the Ottoman Empire. Jordan’s illegal occupation (1949-1967) of Judea, Samaria and eastern parts of Jerusalem was accompanied by the willful destruction of every synagogue in eastern Jerusalem and the use of Jewish gravestones there to line latrines. No Jewish access to the Western Wall remnant of Temple Mount was permitted.

After 1967, Jerusalem’s Jewish landowners reasserted their property rights. They kindly allowed many Arabs to continue living in several Jewish-owned homes, provided that rent was paid. Sadly, many tenants refused to pay rent for more than 40 years. Such tenants are subject to legal eviction, as squatters, in both Israel and the USA. These were individual lawsuits; Israel’s government had no involvement.

Fred Korr

Peace, love ’n’ antisemitism

A new video going viral shows Arabs attacking Jews for being Jews, not in Judea or Samaria, but at a sushi restaurant in West L.A. (“Multiple antisemitic incidents reported over the weekend across U.S.,” online, May 24). Gee, who woulda thunk?

All the psychotherapy and mind-numbing antidepressants in the world aren’t going to undo the damage caused by Jewish parents who thought they were doing their children a favor by espousing left-wing causes.

Just like the rocket barrages in Israel are causing lifelong trauma to Israelis, especially the children, the onslaught in the USA of this violence is going to leave a deep scar. American Jewish parents are going to need to face the fact that the children they thought they were educating to be better human beings will first need to know how to stay alive.

At least Israelis have the Iron Dome. In the USA we aren’t so lucky.

Desmond Tuck
San Mateo

Jews need self-defense

While I advocate a two-state solution for Israel, am sympathetic to the plight and oppression of the Palestinians and detest Bibi, I am also concerned about attacks on Jews by some Palestinians, and I encourage Jews to enroll in martial arts schools whenever possible (“Multiple antisemitic incidents reported over the weekend across U.S.,” May 24).

Jews must defend themselves against violent attacks that are based on hate and stupidity. Some stupidity I can forgive. Hate, I cannot.

Herbert J. Weiner
San Francisco

‘A travesty of Judaism’

Finally, people of good will are waking up to the fact that taking somebody else’s land and claiming it as your own is not a winnable proposition (“A painful road too often traveled in Israel,” J. editorial, May 14). The people from whom the land was taken are going to fight back, and life for both the takers and their victims will become an endless cycle of violence.

That’s what we are seeing played out in Israel and Palestine. Israel provokes the Palestinians by threatening to evict them from the homes where they have lived for generations, forbids them to enjoy their usual custom of congregating on the plaza in front of the Palestinian portion of Jerusalem’s Old City, and then invades their prayers at a holy site during the most holy time of the Muslim calendar — three times.

And, of course the Palestinians, in this case the Hamas military, responds by sending rockets into Israel, and then Israel has a good reason to bomb Gaza — once again.

The so-called new, more progressive American government does nothing to stop these atrocities. And it even plans to send more weapons to Israel to kill more Palestinians.

But those people of good will I mentioned earlier, which includes many Jews, are seeing that this is not the way for decent human beings to behave.

What has been going on in the Holy Land for the past 73 years has absolutely nothing to do with Judaism, the thing it is supposedly preserving with its enormous military might. It is a travesty of Judaism, a mockery, a hall of mirrors. Judaism has, supposedly, evolved over the millennium. It is, supposedly, a religion that is a “light unto the world,” a force to “make the world a better place.” What is happening in Israel is a dark hole and will turn around to bite the Zionists in the end. Let us hope they will not take the Jews of good will with them.

Lois Pearlman

The issue is owners’ rights

Your May 14 editorial (“A painful road too often traveled in Israel”) and, in the same issue,  Steve Lipman’s letter (“Why I dislike Jerusalem Day”) on the confrontation over property rights in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood reflect a commendable desire to move beyond conflict to something better.

However, they also suggest the need for some clarification of the controversy and its background.

First the Israeli government has no role in these eviction proceedings. The plaintiffs are private individuals with legal title dating back to the 19th century under Ottoman law. Second, it is occurring now simply because this is where a 40-year legal process is at this time.

When Jordan illegally occupied east Jerusalem in 1948, all of the Jewish residents were driven out. The Arab Legion commander Sir John Bagot Glubb candidly described the expulsion in his memoir “A Soldier for the Arabs.” In the intervening 19 years, Jordanian authorities allowed local Arabs to occupy the vacated apartments and extended title to many but not all of the new residents.

After Israel retook the area in 1967, Israel legislatively validated the Jordanian ownership titles even though the properties had been illegally confiscated from their previous Jewish owners. Title to the remaining properties, however, reverted back to the former owners. Subsequently Israeli courts declared the occupants “protected tenants” prohibiting eviction as long as rent was paid. In the eight properties in question, either the tenancy agreements have expired or the occupants have refused to pay rent. Israeli courts have thus far sided with the owners.

I respect those who argue that sacrifices may be necessary to achieve a lasting peace. (Full disclosure, I once presented a Torah-based case for reconciliation in a Modern Orthodox congregation.) However, in approaching that goal, the better course of wisdom may very well be to insist upon respect for the rights of all of the involved parties.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

Misinformed Jews in tech

A group of Google employees called “Diaspora Jews in Tech” has sent a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding that the company express solidarity with the Palestinians and terminate contracts with any entity conducting business with Israel and the Israel Defense Forces (“Jewish employees urge google to support Palestinians,” online only, May 20).

This letter has reminded me of the letters, back in the Soviet Union, from all sorts of professional groups (writers, doctors, composers, you name it) that we were called upon to approve at meetings at our places of work.

There were just two subjects in these letters, condemnation of Zionism and American imperialism. We unanimously voted “Dah,” returned to work until the next letter, and so on.

There, our hearts were aching as our hands were raised in the approving votes, but we understood the lies behind the letters. We listened to foreign broadcasts, between the jammings, and read between the lines of the official media. In short, we searched for truth.

Google headquarters in Mountain View. (Photo/JTA-Wikimedia Commons)
Google headquarters in Mountain View. (Photo/JTA-Wikimedia Commons)

Here, within the walls housing the most powerful search engines, Diaspora Jews in Tech happily follow their hearts without giving a damn about the facts of Jewish history, Israeli history, Israeli peace proposals, IDF unprecedented concern for civilian lives, etc.

All these facts are simply a click away from the desire of truth.

In his latest book “Never Alone,” one of the most famous contemporary Jews, Natan Sharansky, writes: “When leaders go with their hearts so much that it overwrites their brains, they are acting irresponsibly.”

Substitute “leaders” with “people” and you end up with sympathy for Hamas and its supporters in their wars against the Jewish state.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo







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