August 2009

Top Stories
• Support for Dr. Blachar
• Sotomayor
• Maccabiah Games
• Letters to the Editor

• Deaf to Peace
• Worried About Obama?

In Their Own Words
• Sen. Arlen Spector

• Ann Lewis Honored

Raising A Mensch
• After the Injury

Living Judaism
• Jews and Media

The Kosher Table
• Hands On Honey

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News and Opinion

Letters to the Editor

Specter Equivocates on Health Care

Thank you very much for such a comprehensive interview with Senator Specter. My comments are limited in scope, however, to the questions related to health care. I am appalled that after decades in the Senate, and after having been a cancer patient, the Senator is still seemingly blind to the realities of the situation.

Senator Specter says that he would like to see all Americans have access to a health insurance plan equally as good as that which is afforded him, through our tax dollars. That was the sole thing he said with which any reasonable person could agree. Everything else on the topic was either incorrect or politicized 180 degrees from the actual truth.

For example, he says that “there is not much support in Congress for Single Payer because of the concern about creating a big bureaucracy between the doctor and the patient.” To say that, the Senator must know nothing about Single Payer. It is a system of government paid, privately paid health care, which decreases bureaucracy. He should read all about Single Payer and learn how Pennsylvania is further along in the process than any other state. It is a system that improves health care, improves patient outcomes, and directly saves money currently paid by individuals, corporations, municipal, county and state governments, as well as hospitals.

The Senator equivocates on whether or not he will support a public option. He talks about wanting a “level playing field”, which means an exchange, and likely a trigger level. Either he is committed to the insurance companies, big Pharma and their obscene profits or he does not understand what is really involved.

It concerns me that both Senator Specter and Congressman Sestak are opposed to fundamental change in the health care system. There is no other issue facing our elected officials which affects 100% of all human beings. Both Specter and Sestak will be at Netroots Nation in two weeks. This is a conference of political activists and bloggers, and I am pleased to say that I will be attending as one of the scholars, a group of 30 people chosen for scholarships based on their blogs and activist undertakings. Specter and Sestak will be the panelists at the Netroots Nation Pennsylvania Leadership Forum, where they will entertain questions from the audience. I intend to follow-up with both of them on this very important topic.

Thanks again to PJV for undertaking both this interview, and the one with Congressman Sestak last month. It is so critical to all of us Pennsylvanians that we know as much as possible about the men who want to be our Senator beginning in January of 2011. Please stay on these guys!

-- DocJess, Blogger, Chesterbrook, PA

Memories of Tunisia

Bonnie Squire's article in the June issue brought back memories for me.

My wife, Karen Singer and I traveled to Tunisia in the summer of 2005 for our honeymoon. We spent three weeks, and traversed most of the country. The first part of our trip, in and around Tunis, we used public transportation. Then traveling counterclockwise, we rented a car and drove to the Northern coast, then into the mountains (the foothills of the Atlas Mountains), and then into the desert oasis of Tozeur. From there, we hired a four wheel drive into the Sahara Desert to the oasis of Ksar Ghilane, and then on to Djerba Island, and finally to the Cap Bon Peninsula on the Northeast coast, before returning to Tunis.

A Djerba "Brik" shop.

We chose Tunisia, in part, because my wife, a ceramist, working in tile, wanted to see the Muslim tile work, which we did see, in profusion, all over the country.

Tunisia is a country that few American travel to. Our friend, Jerry Sorkin, who leads many tours there, helped us plan our trip, and made some personal introductions for us. Wherever we went, few people guessed that we were American, and, given the President at the time, particularly in a Muslim country, we had some "apologizing" to do. When we told people that we were Jewish, the universal comment was "Bon", good. Not once, in three weeks of travel, did we experience a moment of anti-Semitism.

El Ghriba Synagogue.

The people of Tunisia, Arab, Berber, Touareg and Bedouin, are rather extraordinarily warm and friendly. We were adopted many times, throughout the country. We accepted offers to come to homes and have lunch, to come to homes for dinner, to come and stay overnight. We made friends that we are still in touch with, four years later. As we are both artists (I am a furniture maker), this was an additional connection we made with people all over the country, but particularly in Tunis, Sejenane, Djerba, and Nabeul with woodworkers and ceramists.

In Djerba, Jews and and non-Jews have lived together in friendship for 2600 years. The Jews there trace their ancestry to the First Diaspora. When most of the Jews went East, some went west to Djerba. The history is that they landed on Djerba on Lag B'Omer, and the celebration there, each year, lasts for days and both Jews and Muslims participate. When the El Ghriba Synagogue was bombed in 2002, the local Muslim community helped with the rebuilding. There are, I as we were told on Djerba, seven synagogues for 1000 Jews. We met many Jewish shopkeepers, one of whom was a silversmith making Judaica in the old traditions of Djerba, and man of great warmth, as well as Arabs who were deep friends with the Jewish community.

This is an extraordinary country, that makes an example of how Jews and Muslims can, and do, share a parallel heritage, and live together in friendship. It helps create a perspective that the large issue in the Middle East is not about Jews and Muslims, but about land.

-- Peter Handler

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice welcomes the submission of articles and letters to the editor letters @ pjvoice.com. Please include name, address and phone number for identification purposes. We cannot publish every submission we receive. We also reserve the right to edit submissions for length, clarity, grammar, accuracy, and style, though we will never intentionally distort the author's intent.

Editor-in-chief Ellen G. Witman editor @ pjvoice.com.

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