DevMode
Disappointed

Sirs,

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.

Sincerely,
J. Zel Lurie, Chautauqua, N.Y.


Response to Torture

Dear Editors,

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: phr@netvision.net.il).

Sincerely,
Dr. Ruchama Marton, Chairperson, PHR, Tel Aviv, Israel


Supporting the Peace Process

Sirs,

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 journal.
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 people.
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 ┬Čeasy. 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 movement.

Eliana Bensusan, Psychologist
Zionist Academic Study Group Coordinator, Montevideo, Uruguay


Is Judaism a Non-Political Religion?

Sirs,

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.

Yours faithfully,
Hyam Maccoby, Richmond, Surrey, U.K.
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