Dr. Michael Gordon raises valuable bioethical insights in “How important is ice cream in your life?” (Nov. 1). I would like to note the following opinion written by Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik, first published by Rabbi J. David Bleich in the latter's Bioethical Dilemmas Vol. 1 (Hoboken, 1998), p. 71: “It is my unmitigated, convinced opinion that a doctor must do his utmost to treat terminally ill patients. This is true whether doctors believe that the patient can survive for even an extremely brief period of time, or even if they believe that the patient is brain dead.” Now, a patient who is brain dead can only be fed artificially. S such a patient is unable to eat ice cream. In fact, there is a significant rabbinic debate whether the patient can legally be considered alive. And yet, even under such challenging circumstances, Rabbi Soloveitchik obligates us to artificially feed the patient. May we all be blessed with good health – and plentiful ice cream – and be spared from facing such a difficult quandary.
Rabbi Shalom Spira
* * *
Construction in Israel
James Slater writes about “Israel’s repeated violations of their agreement to respect the ban on the building of settlements” (“Betrayal of trust for Zionists, letter, Nov. 15). What ban would that be? There is not and never has been a ban on building Jewish homes anywhere, except in areas directly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, where no Jew is allowed to live. Israel did impose a voluntary 10-month freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria in 2010, hoping to encourage the Palestinians to negotiate. The Palestinians ignored this concession for nine months and then asked for an extension. Not surprisingly, Israel refused. Despite this, construction has remained severely restricted and limited to natural growth within existing communities, with no new construction anywhere on disputed land. As for Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, no construction freeze was ever offered, for the simple reason that 3,000 unbroken years of Jewish history in the city are more than enough to trump 19 years of illegal Arab occupation of its eastern suburbs, from 1948 to its reunification in 1967
* * *
Inadequate Zionist narrative
In spite of Israel’s unpopularity, its supporters find it difficult to admit part of the reason might be a Zionist narrative that is inadequate. The Zionist idea of the 2,000-year exile is interpreted by adversaries as the Jews abandoning their land, which eventually became Arab/Muslim, in which the Jews would have no inherent rights, despite UN resolutions.
In fact, during the last 2,000 years, the Jews maintained their continuity in their homeland and had such achievements as the Mishnah, the Jerusalem Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch and Kabbalah. Thus Jews can maintain that during the last 2,000 years, the Land of Israel remained a Jewish possession. This concept seems to be in conformity with the UN idea of the rights of indigenous people. Jews can claim to be the indigenous people of their homeland, as they maintained their continuity and culture, even if due to conditions created by the alien occupiers, their numbers at times became small.
If these ideas became accepted, support for Jewish positions could be enhanced, and might quell the Arab/Muslim struggle against Israel, with the realization that the Land of Israel had never been Arab/Muslim territory. Also, any resulting negotiations might be more advantageous for the Jewish side if they would be thought indigenous.
Such changes in world opinion couldn’t happen overnight. It seems that current methods of finding security and acceptance in the world are not leading to any good result, and something new might be desirable.