In “Spitting, cursing, harassment matter of course in Beit Shemesh neighborhood” (May 17), reporter Jeremy Sharon generally presents a nuanced picture of certain incidents occurring between some residents of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet and those of contiguous neighborhoods. However it was “matter of course” in the headline that grabbed my attention, as these words perpetuate the very pre-judgemental mentality he attacks by seeming to label an entire community as a single entity.
Mr. Sharon correctly describes all incidents of harassment as deplorable, and it is indeed saddening to see groups of children and adults behaving in an unthinking and aggressive manner toward outsiders, often without clear censure from their communal leaders.
I would suggest, however, that there are many members of that community who also deplore the behavior of these groups.
I have driven, walked, shopped and asked directions on the street in this area many times over the past years, and I have been personally greeted with courtesy and friendliness.
In regard to the teenage group leaders of Ezra and B’nai Akiva who require escort through that neighborhood, I submit that many others in that category not only walk freely there on a regular basis, but also work and interact there without bias or incident.
We must report and fight against ignorance and prejudice wherever it arises, but in doing so, we must also be careful not to paint an entire community with one broad brush.
MARION REISS Beit Shemesh
Illustrating your article is a photo of anti-Zionist haredim protesting the Independence Day celebrations of Israel. While this is not the point of the article, it is surprising that the protest shown was not reported the day after the photo was taken.
The question that arises is whether these haredim, their leaders and place of learning accept and money from the State of Israel. If they protest against Israel’s independence, they should ask for support from the government they think should be ruling Israel and return their Israeli citizenship.
Further, the article refers to extremists. It would help if you were to name and condemn the extremist leaders whose acts are approaching those attributed to other fundamentalists around the world.
MICHAEL H. DAVIS Rishon Lezion
Elliot Cosgrove has hit the nail on the head in describing the woeful state of debate within Diaspora communities in discussing Israel (“For the sake of Zion,” Comment & Features, May 17).
Before making aliya some four years ago from the UK, I represented my community on the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and felt that this was an appropriate forum where Jews from all shades of opinion could discuss issues relating to Israel in a candid manner. All too often, however, critics of aspects of Israeli government policy felt inhibited from expressing their views because of the hostile reactions from other deputies who disagreed.
I grew up during the period before the 1967 Six Day War, when there was little or no debate within the Jewish community about Israel. Times changed, however, and it became increasingly evident in recent years that “my Israel, right or wrong” would not work for intelligent and questioning young Jews growing up outside the Jewish state.
While devoted to the Zionist cause, many nevertheless harbor concerns at aspects of Israel’s policies, particularly regarding the “disputed territories.” They are, however, discouraged from airing these views even within Jewish circles.
Stifling debate will simply produce negative attitudes.
As Cosgrove says, “it will be through the failure to embrace a plurality of views whereby we will lose the next generation of would-be pro-Israel advocates.”
The leaders of US and Anglo Jewry need to wake up and take note before hearts and minds are lost to the cause.
ALAN MAYS Netanya
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