Letters


The Other

David Myers’ message on the disengagement from Gaza is moving and powerful and wonderfully significant (“Show Gaza Sympathies to the Other,” Aug. 26). It is a call to conscience and a much-need reminder that what lies at the heart of the Jewish ethos is the conviction that the Jewish conscience has no boundaries. The Gaza settlers, the impoverished Israelis, the Arab citizens of Israel, the Palestinians — there must be a compassionate place for all of them on the walls of a Jewish heart.

Rabbi Leonard Beerman
Los Angeles

In his article, David Myers shows his universalism first. He has little sympathy for the settlers who did not take any money. Apparently, they had higher motives in not wanting to leave their homes.

Recently we watched the scenes of evacuees and soldiers. One could not help but be proud of the Israel Defense Forces as they carried out their duty with so much sympathy for the anguish of the settler. Disengagement was a wrenching experience for all of Israel. One needs time to mourn and contemplate its effect on the history of the nation.

Myers does not even allow a mourning period. He immediately chastises us for not showing empathy toward the Palestinians. He neglected to mention that Jews were evicted from all the Arab countries, leaving behind far greater wealth.

You don’t hear about these Jewish refugees. Israel did not keep them in refugee camps for more than 50 years. They were integrated into the society.

We teach children to first love themselves because only then can they love a friend or the “other.” This applies to adults, as well. In the fullness of time, the other will come to understand that the gestures of friendship which Israel has demonstrated over the years deserve to be reciprocated.

Bracha Malkin
Los Angeles

Like a Virgin

In response to Amy Klein’s column, “Like a Virgin” (Aug. 19), I would like to offer a response to the last few lines of the article: “But a 40-year-old virgin? Save it for the movies, because it’s so sad you’d have to laugh.”

While I would agree that it would appear to be atypical or uncommon to have existed on this planet for 40 years (let alone 40 days and 40 nights, as far as many people are concerned) without ever having had sexual relations with another person, I would hardly call it “sad.” Better a 40-year-old virgin (who perhaps is just selective and sensitive enough to want to wait for the right person and have a caring, more meaningful relationship with a true connection) than a 20-something who just wants to “romp around” because he/she “can” or because “everyone else is doing it. I’m sure my nearly 50-year-old male virgin friend would agree.

Name Withheld Upon Request

Claim Won’t Hold

A Nation/World brief in your Aug. 19 issue reported that entertainer Harry Belafonte recently claimed Jews were “high up in the Third Reich” (“Oy, Mr. Tallyman,” Aug. 19). After protests by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Belafonte backtracked and admitted that “Jews weren’t ‘high up'” in the Hitler regime, but he then claimed: “Jews did have a role, some did, in the demise and brutal treatment of the Jewish people [during the Holocaust].” (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 11, 2005) Your article noted that Belafonte claimed my book, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers,” supports his charge.

“Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers” shows that a number of people of partial Jewish ancestry served in the German military, but they did not even consider themselves Jews. Moreover, the vast majority of them were drafted — they were forced to serve Hitler just as other Jews were forced to become slave laborers in Auschwitz and elsewhere. In fact, many of them were later dismissed from the German military and sent to forced labor camps where they themselves were persecuted and some were murdered. Belafonte should take the trouble to read the books he cites, before claiming they support him. My book does not support him.

Bryan Mark Rigg
author of “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers”

Death by Oprah

I picked up The Jewish Journal, opened the back page and was drawn in by the title of an article by Annie Korzen: “Death by Oprah” (Aug. 19). I read the first paragraph, and became excited at the prospect of reading, finally, an intelligent discourse from an expert who writes about “the ugly stereotypes Jewish men have created about their wives and mothers.”

But it was all downhill after that. Rather than being a spokesperson for Jewish women, Korzen went on to prove these stereotypes by her own words and deeds, descriptions of her own behavior proving the reputed ugliness is all too true. Her piggish eating habits and self-denigrating jokes proved the opposite of what she supposedly set out to do, which is to destroy stereotypes, the reason she was invited on “Oprah.” Her so-called humor served only to further the ugly clichés about Jewish women.

What a pity, taking up two columns of a Jewish newspaper to serve the callous cause of stereotyping Jewish women, who deserve better that that. With friends like Korzen, we Jewish women don’t need enemies.

Carol Pearlman
West Hollywood

Correction

In “Classnotes: Genesis Generation” (Aug. 26), The first name of Jenna Barocas was incorrectly written as Jennifer.

Faith Remains

The Journal’s question, “After Gaza, Can Religious Jews Still Believe in Israel?” is entirely wrong (Cover Story, Aug. 12). In fact, it is quite the opposite. Ultimately, the vast majority of religious Jews will emerge with their faith in Israel intact — even if challenged by Israel’s secular administration and its surreal, morally evil expulsion plan, whereby 10,000 of Israel’s best citizens suffered unimaginable loss and pain.

As for the nonreligious Jews (not the non-observant, many of whom may well be Jews of faith), what will be the degree and quality of their belief in Israel now that we have experienced the expulsion from Gaza?

More than 1,000 proud and hugely productive Gush Katif families, a number of them nonreligious, are today homeless — adrift throughout Israel — due to unfulfilled government promises. Illustrative is the experience of certain expelled secularists who arrived at their promised quarters only to be turned away. The facility owners now lacked confidence in the government’s promise of payment. Once again, these Jews became outcasts.

Belief in God’s word and their spirituality enable the religious to say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” But will the nonreligious outcasts be able to recover belief in Israel? That is a more appropriate question.

Julian M. White
Beverly Hills

Terrorism Won

Notwithstanding the arguments of Hirsh Goodman (“Israel’s Future — Not Terrorism — Won in Gaza,” Aug. 26) on the strategic benefits and objectives for Israel of the Gaza withdrawal, the perception held almost unanimously by Palestinians is that tactics of terror have driven Israel out of Gaza. That is the only lesson that the Palestinians will draw from the Gaza withdrawal, and now they will try to apply it in the rest of Israel, with disastrous results for themselves and for many Israelis.

One might request that Goodman at least not repeat the Arab propaganda claim that Gaza is “the most populated piece of real estate in the world.” Had he devoted even a few minutes to fact-checking, Goodman would have found that, with more than 1.3 million people in 138 square miles, Gaza has a density of 9,971 persons per square mile. That is about 57 percent of the density of Hong Kong (17,377) and less than 15 percent of the density of Manhattan (66,844).

Ralph B. Kostant
Valley Village

Junk Science

Most paleontologists admit that fossils have not proven the validity of classical evolution (“Junk” Science, Aug. 12). Microfossils of bacteria occur immediately after the appearance of water on Earth. Almost 530 million years ago, with no hint in earlier fossils, the Cambrian explosion of life appeared with all the body plans represented in animal phyla extant today, simultaneously, in a single burst in the fossil record. Classes developed within each phyla, but they retained the basic body plan of their particular phylum. Animals make their sudden appearance highly specialized and fully developed, last their time and disappear essentially the same. One of the great mysteries of animal evolution is why no new phyla have appeared since the Cambrian age. These rapid staccato changes cannot be explained by purely random mutations at the molecular genetic level. Microevolution within a species has been well documented but there is no data to support macroevolution. The persistence of theories for a randomly driven evolution of life in the face of the data from molecular biology and the fossil record, both replete with evidence against it, is purely a matter of cognitive dissidence.

Dr. Sabi Israel
West Hills

Gaza Sympathies

David Myers, in his zeal to support our enemies and oppose our own interests, lied (“Show Gaza Sympathies to the Other,” Aug. 26). Houses were demolished in Gaza, Samaria, Judea and Jerusalem not “without reason.” As is well known, they were houses of terrorists, and a Turkish law, kept on the books by the British occupiers and still retained by us in our independence, decrees their razing; or houses threatening innocent civilians passing on the roads. Does the professor think that they were picked at random, destroyed on whim?

He turned truth on its head: In 1948 it was Jews in Muslim countries who were dispossessed and exiled (or hanged, as in Baghdad), not Palestinian Muslims: Some of those fled out of fear of reprisal for attacking Jews, or in obedience to the Arab high command to “clear the battlefield” for genocide of the Jews. Even so, their property was kept in trust for them until a peace settlement.

Nursing their enmity toward us for generations, they should not be “permitted back”. Every trace of their occupation of the land of Israel (as they originally called it) might well be erased. The millions of Arabs living well as Israeli citizens are there by Israeli sufferance, not by any right. They keep the peace. The refugees didn’t and don’t.

Louis Richter
Encino

 

Like a Virgin


Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee,

Lousy with virginity;

Won’t go to bed till I’m legally wed,

I can’t, I’m Sandra Dee. — From the film “Grease”

What is up with virginity? First, there is the new movie, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” which opens this Friday, and then there’s the release of “Superstud, or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin,” the book by “Freaks and Geeks” creator Paul Feig.

Allow me to point out the obvious: There is a world of difference between a 24-year-old male virgin and a 40-year-old male virgin, more than the 16 years might imply. One might be a normal kid who spent too much college time in study hall, and the other is a guy who spent too much time living with his mother. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Is virginity the new black?

In an era that seems to lack erogenous zones, is the only sexy thing left no sex at all?

This reminds me of my first year in Jerusalem. I was 18 and studying at a girls’ seminary. Our school was in Ge’ula, one of the most religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem, adjacent to Me’ah She’arim, the most religious neighborhood in Israel’s capital, which featured big bold signs in Hebrew and English: “WARNING! The Torah Prohibits a Jewish Daughter to Dress Immodestly, i.e. Mini-Dress or Slacks or Short Sleeves! PLEASE Don’t Arouse Our Feelings by Being Immodestly Dressed!”

Needless to say, the sign provoked outrage, but we were dressing modestly anyway that year as part of school rules: We had to wear skirts that covered our knees (with no high school tricks like yanking your skirt down when teachers walked by) and shirts that covered our elbows and collarbones, as mandated by Orthodox law. We learned a lot about modesty that year — about how a woman’s true beauty is only within (kvod bat hamelech pnima), why a woman should not have physical contact with anyone but her husband — and even then, only at certain times of the month — and what are the most attractive ways cover your hair after marriage.

To the outside eye, or my later cynical one, that education might be called indoctrination more than education. But there was also something exceptionally comforting about the whole concept of ritual purity, modesty — and staying concealed and untouched. In a way, it taps into the stereotypical female fantasy of any romantic comedy or Harlequin romance: to be adored and worshipped by one man, forever.

I tried the modesty/celibacy thing for a while. I really did. There were two basic problems:

1. I was nowhere near ready to get married. I’d started dating at age 19 (and you can see how well that worked out). You can only be shomrei negiah — the religious term for avoiding touching between the opposite sex — if you’re headed down the aisle right around the time you reach legal drinking age.

2. I just didn’t have the personality for modesty. I hated wearing skirts, and my whole demeanor decried the captivity of modesty. I liked to sing, not permitted in front of men; I liked public speaking and leading discussions. Simply put, I always seemed to stand out, as I realized at a religious cousin’s wedding when I wore a perfectly modest dress that was bright red.

But the after-effects of my education held on for a while. At 25, I was chatting with three friends — a Modern Orthodox “Sex and the City” — about how long we’d hold out; what was the age we’d have to get married by to maintain our modesty?

One of my friends still hasn’t changed. She’s still a virgin, and she’s almost 35. I don’t see anyone making a movie out of that. Is this sad — or beautiful, idealistic? We were all promised something sacred — a husband who would cherish us, and especially value us because we were only intimate with him — but the goods never came though. Not for my friend, and not for me either. Not yet.

I am almost embarrassed to admit that at times the debauchery of this free Western society can grate on me. Me! A person more comfortable in a bathing suit than any other outfit, a woman who has never ever been described as bashful. Yet I look at 10-year-old girls dressed way beyond their age; I hear statistics about teenagers and sex. And, sometimes, I pray that my own future daughter will have something more resembling my background, my choices, my possibilities of sexual restraint. A place where “Seven Minutes in Heaven” might just mean a peck on the cheek, where she didn’t need to know the word “virginity” until she saw a movie like “Grease.” And maybe her first lover would really be her first love — maybe even her only love.

I suppose there’s an unspoken question that arises from this sudden pop interest in virginity, especially when it comes to women (even though the book and film are about men): How do you balance between Madonna and the Virgin Mary — for yourself, for your sisters, for your daughters? Religion never gave me an answer that was both ethically perfect and real-world practical.

A 24-year-old virgin — now that might be something to write a memoir about. But a 40-year-old virgin?

Save it for the movies, because it’s so sad you’d have to laugh.