Four letters to the editor of Haaretz yesterday are worth reprinting (I edited and added links) for their wisdom and, in the case of the last, its why-didn't-we-think-of-that, out-of-the-box thinking. Here we go:
What does “without religion” mean?
In response to "Court grants author's request to register as 'without religion,'" October 2:
Some see recognition of Yoram Kaniuk as a citizen "without religion" as a breakthrough for the separation of religion and state. Yet there is something strange about this definition. Embedded therein is the unstated premise that every individual is born into a religion, as though a religion is a limb of the body. "Without religion" therefore designates someone who lacks a quality ordinarily found among people, a classification tantamount to "missing a leg" or "homeless" [or an animal - M.E.].
The campaign's goal should be the opposite: Whoever feels it important to declare her religion on identity documents should ask for this attribute to be listed as an addition. This means that an identity document should include the following automatically: citizenship; name; and address. Affiliation with a religion should be listed only if the bearer explicitly asks for such.
Hurray for Edna Inbár! As I've said many a time, What is the "Religion" datum doing there in the first place? Obviously only one piece of information is important: Are you, or are you not, an Arab? And that can overwhelmingly be discerned by the bearer's name and / or address. So "Christian" or "Muslim" are actually irrelevant in this case, are they not?
Barghouti should be freed
Gilad Shalit's release shows us as the big family we are, with so many regarding Shalit as if he were their own son. It also shows how achingly we want Jonathan Pollard to go free, as well as the agony of so many who lost their loved ones at the hands of swapped prisoners. Yet Haaretz always brings out the complexities of the conflict in both sides' narratives.
So, on the other side, even after the exchange, Israel will still hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners (some for as long as 30 years).
And yet in order to help bring both sides — with their so profoundly divergent narratives — closer to peace, how calamitous it is to leave imprisoned Marwan Barghouti, perhaps the one Palestinian leader able to unite the divided Palestinians behind an effective peace agreement.
Were Franz Kafka here, he would surely put this in one of his stories.
Is there really no one to talk to?
We watched those rare moments that were the outcome of talks with Hamas with Egyptian mediation. We talked with Hamas! It is possible. As someone who lost three members of my family — my sister Rivka and her sons, Roi and Ilan — in the bloody coastal road bus terror attack that took the lives of 38 Israelis, I can still remember the mindset with regard to the PLO: Not only was there "no one to talk to," it was forbidden to talk; anyone who talked with the PLO went to prison. Our partners today are the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. You have to sit and talk and talk and talk, until there is an agreement.
Khaled Abu Usba, who was among the perpetrators of that attack, was released in the Jibril deal, and unlike several who went back to terror, he eventually spoke about the need to arrive at a peace agreement.
Agree, and I do perceive a shift. I heard one of the swapped prisoners tell a reporter, "We'll keep on abducting Israelis as long as Israel holds Palestinians prisoner." As little as ten years ago, the prevailing declaration would have been, "We'll keep on abducting Israelis as long as even a single drop of Zionist infidel blood pollutes the land of Palestine." So we're making progress, no? Although the problem is that as long as we occupy Palestine, we will hold Palestinians prisoner, even if it's on charges of an unpaid parking ticket...
The half-hour compromise
In response to "The shortest summer in the world," October 4:
I propose a course of action for Daylight Savings Time that could bridge between the sides without forcing anything on either. At the base of the idea is changing local Standard Time and moving it to a point more suited to our geographical locale — 34 degrees east (on average) — and deriving our Daylight Savings Time therefrom.
Israel lies in the Greenwich Mean Time +2 zone, which stretches from meridian 22.50 eastwards to longitude 37.5, with the 30th meridian at its center. However, the longitude of the central part of Israel is located at 34.5 east, closer to the edge of the area bordering on GMT +3. Geographically, therefore, Israel lies closer to GMT +3 than to GMT +2. Hence for most of the year, Israel's locale is more suited to being located in GMT +2.5.
In order to avoid constant conflict with the Orthodox, I propose encompassing by law the entire country, all year long, in the GMT +2.5 time zone. There are a number of countries and areas of the world that have adopted half hours and not whole hours. Moreover, between April 1 and September 1, Daylight Savings Time should be observed by moving the clock half an hour. Thus Yom Kippur will always fall in GMT +2.5.
Ah, but this would be too logical, wouldn't it? Is anyone in the Interior Ministry -- or any ministry out there -- listening?
And, on an unrelated note, over the recent holidays, among other festive fashion statements, I was disappointed to see a baby girl wearing one of those baby girl headbands, presumably so that she won't God forbid be mistaken for a boy. I've seen other babies wearing them, and I always want to ask their moms [it is the moms, isn't it?]: "Why, oh why are you perpetuating this blatant gender stereotyping that will only have to be untaught later?"
And ten bucks says five years hence Mom will be overheard to say, "She refuses to even look at anything that's not pink and sparkly. I just don't get it: I certainly never gave her those messages. I mean, look at me: Am I dressed pink and sparkly?" Sigh. Feminism: a Sisyphean climb.