I have received your Winter issue devoted to Education.
It is difficult for me, 6,000 miles away, to criticize. There are
probably many nuances of which I'm unaware. But I must express my
disappointment at your sad treatment, or lack of it, of
multilingual and multicultural education.
Worse yet, the excellent cover photo is not identified at all.
Wasn't it taken at Neve Shalom/Wahat AI-Salam primary school, which
I have supported for a number of years? I know of no other school
where the children learn Hebrew and Arabic equally as the children
in this photo are doing.
But isn't it worth describing and discussing?
The non-education articles in this issue are excellent. Best of all
is the report from Gaza by Amira Hess. I hope she enters the
contest for the Lova and Tanya Eliav journalism prize for
distinguished reporting on Arab-Jewish coexistence and conflict
resolution. There will also be an Arabic prize in memory of Issam
Sartawi and an English prize in memory of Fr. Bruno Hussar.
J. Zel Lurie, Chautauqua, N.Y.
Response to Torture
I have read with great interest the book review on Torture:
Human Rights, Medical Ethics and the Case of Israel in your
Autumn 1995 issue.
Dan Leon concludes his review by quoting three variations typical
of an authority's response to torture: "Nothing is happening; what
is happening is something else and what is happening is completely
justified." The difficulties that Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
has encountered in its attempts to distribute Torture through
established channels seem to prove the point.
In order to make the book readily available, PHR has decided to
sell it directly. The public is invited to contact us (Tel:
+972-3-566 4526, E-mail: email@example.com).
Dr. Ruchama Marton, Chairperson, PHR, Tel Aviv, Israel
Supporting the Peace Process
Members of the Zionist Academic Study Group Montevideo, Uruguay,
have decided to found a movement in support of the Israeli and
Palestinian peace process begun by the Government of Israel and the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). We intend to support all
who aim, like us, to try and overcome decades of confrontation,
bloodshed, hate, terrorism and war, including your valuable
Some three years have passed since the achievement of the first
Oslo agreement, when Israelis and Palestinians took the first step
toward their common destiny of coexistence on the same land.
Territories may be disputed, negotiated, divided, eventually
shared, but, if each party claims exclusive right to the disputed
land, and is convinced that the other party has no right to exist,
there will be no way out.
The principal aim of the Movement in Support of the Peace Process
is to promote public discussion as well, as the increasing
awareness about the need of reciprocal recognition of the existence
of Israel and the independence aims of the Palestinian
The Oslo agreements arrived at a partial transfer of authority to
the Palestinian National Authority over the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip, and the election of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The
Israeli government must continue to pursue the peace process.
We know that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are not - and cannot
be ¬easy. The movement condemns the methods and ideology of
the radical, fanatical groups which work to destroy this process
and restrain the advance towards a peaceable coexistence and
democratization of the region.
We propose to carry out a program of positive actions, including
meetings, debates, conferences and the establishment of an
information net on the whole subject of the conflict and the peace
Eliana Bensusan, Psychologist
Zionist Academic Study Group Coordinator, Montevideo, Uruguay
Is Judaism a Non-Political Religion?
Boas Evron ("Israeli Theocracy," Winter 1996) revives the theory of
my old friend, the late Gershon Weiler, that Judaism is an
essentially non-political religion.
Certainly, Judaism has never envisaged a state ruled by rabbis, but
that is by no means the same thing as saying that Judaism is
non-political. On the contrary, the Jewish political system demands
that political power should be in the hands of the laity, and that
the rabbis (earlier the prophets) should never assume more than an
advisory role. This means that the Muslim idea of a caliphate,
combining political and religious power, is alien to Judaism, and
thus the prospect of a Jewish ayatollah is remote.
Mr. Evron's picture of the political set-up in biblical times is
flawed by his failure to understand the Jewish political concept of
division of powers. He argues that the political character of the
Judean and Israelite kings arose from their paganism: if they had
been adherents of the apolitical monotheism formulated in Exilic
and post-Exilic times, they could never have functioned
politically. He even argues that the Hasmonean kings acted
politically only insofar as they departed from monotheism and
adopted Hellenistic norms.
This is a travesty. The picture of the kings provided by the Hebrew
Bible was drawn by the very same authors who promulgated
monotheism. The picture they give is one of lay leadership,
corrupted at times by worldly temptations and foreign influence,
but continually under the criticism and surveillance of spiritual
leaders, who might suffer from persecution at the hands of their
kings, but never failed to remind them of the duties of a Jewish
king. Similarly, the Pharisees, successors of the prophets,
criticized the Hasmonean kings, not because the Pharisees despised
politics, but because, like the prophets before them, they were
fiercely concerned with political issues. When a Hasmonean ruler,
Queen Alexandra Salome, adopted Pharisee ideals, the Pharisees took
an active role in supporting her.
So, far from withdrawing from politics, the Pharisees and rabbis
gave an example to the Hellenistic world of criticism of the
powers-that-be. Hellenistic rulers were despots. Jewish rulers were
always reminded that their hearts must not be lifted above their
brothers (Deuteronomy 17:20). This political concept arose from the
basic inspiration of Judaism, the liberation from Egypt.
In conditions of Exile, Jews were unable to exercise power, and
what limited autonomy they achieved fell far short of Jewish
political concepts. But this does not mean that such concepts did
not exist. I suggest that Mr. Evron, instead of rehashing Weiler,
should look at some of the work recently done by Daniel Elazar and
Stuart Cohen on Jewish political philosophy.
Hyam Maccoby, Richmond, Surrey, U.K.