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October 1, 2010

We’re Fighting the Freeze

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency report printed in the Forward of September 24, “The Right Waits for Netanyahu’s Move,” regarding the pressure being exerted on Israel to extend the 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, incorrectly claims that even those American Jewish groups that support these communities are not fighting that pressure aggressively and seem resigned to an extension of the freeze. Insofar as the Zionist Organization of America is concerned, this is completely untrue.

Already last week, the ZOA issued a press release that laid out in detail our unqualified opposition to any extension of the discriminatory freeze on construction by Jews and only Jews in Judea and Samaria on moral, legal, historical and strategic grounds.

The ZOA has been in contact with the Israeli prime minister’s office, members of the Israeli cabinet and Knesset, as well as the Obama White House and the State Department, while also urging members of Congress in Washington to exert their influence on the Obama administration not to pressure Israel to extend the freeze on Jewish construction.

We urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to abide by the promise he gave on November 30, 2009, when he said, “This is a one-time decision and it is temporary … just as it says in the Cabinet decision and as I have personally stressed in both closed and open forums. We will go back to building at the end of the freeze.”

Morton A. Klein
National President, ZOA

Built From the Ground Up

Philologos’ column on September 10, “Jews’ Houses Ain’t Castles: They’re Shuls,” on what Jews really call their “synagogues,” contains a hidden lesson worth highlighting. This Pharisaic institution was first called a beit knesset (a place of gathering), then later it became a beit midrash (a place of study) and only later, in the first century CE, became a beit tefillah (a place of prayer).

These terms reflect a deeper sociological truth. Jewish communities are built from the ground up. They begin as places where people’s social needs are met. Then they evolve to include the essential Jewish value of study. (Our Jewish drive to understand the world around us is ancient but remains essential.) And only in the end does the community evolve further to incorporate a schedule of worship — in which we review and reinforce our highest values through a recitation of literary gems that integrate our understanding of nature and history.

We who seek to build and strengthen Jewish communities — whether we call them temples, synagogues, or shuls — will learn from our history where to begin.

Rabbi Jonathan H. Gerard
Easton, Penn.

Violence Predates Settlements

Regarding “Why Some Jewish Stars Support Israeli Artistic Boycott”, September 17:

Theodore Bikel’s statement that “Anyone who has strong feelings for Israel like I do, and that believes it is an absolute necessity to strive for peace, understands that the single most obvious obstacle are the settlements,” sums up the absolute blindness of these boycotters against Israel and Jewish people.

They want to make us believe that “settlements” are the peace issue. There were no “settlements” before 1967 and yet Jews were murdered and Israeli peace overtures were met with violence. Unfortunately for the Jewish people, these boycott enthusiasts will only stoke the fires of our Arab and European enemies and further damage Israel’s peace prospects.

I suggest to the boycotters that the real “necessity to strive for peace” is to stop Arabs’ incitement within their own schools, mosques and media, and for Arab leaders to say the same things to the English press as they do to the Arab press.

Ed Kohl
West Bloomfield, Mich.

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