- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

'Drop into Jerusalem. We'll leave the light on for yuh.'

I returned Tuesday from a week's stay in Jerusalem, where I volunteered at a rehabilitation ward in Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, working with many patients, including Israeli victims of terror attacks. I agree emphatically with Oliver North's excellent July 14 Commentary column, "Jerusalem revisited." I want to thank him for spending a week in Israel and broadcasting live from Jerusalem. No doubt his presence there was helpful in presenting the facts from the ground, and I am sure his visit was greatly appreciated.
As Mr. North said, the lack of tourism, especially on the part of American Jews, is hurting Israel very badly. I stayed at the King David Hotel, which normally would be filled during the summer to its capacity of 600 guests. Sixty persons were there. The dining room and lobby were virtually empty at all times, day or night. Many hotels in Israel are closed because of the intifada, which has lasted almost 2 years.
Though the effects of the intifada on the citizens of Israel are devastating, the Israelis continue to demonstrate their indomitable spirit in many ways. The sites of the piguim (terror attacks) that I saw in person Moment Cafe, Sbarro Pizzeria, Ben Yehuda Street, the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv all have been rebuilt and are thriving again. Many Jerusalemites avoid public transportation and the downtown area for obvious reasons, but many have no choice or choose to go anyway. I went to Ben Yehuda Street three times and felt completely safe.
At the hospital, I saw firsthand how terror attacks affect victims and their families. Many of the patients are young people who will be damaged physically and emotionally for a long time if not for the rest of their lives just for being on a bus, sitting in a cafe or going to a store.
I also saw that Arab and Jewish patients are given the same excellent care. I only wish the outside world could witness the harmony between Arab and Jew inside Hadassah Hospital.
Is it safe to visit Israel right now? During the week I visited Jerusalem, a pipe bomb exploded not 10 minutes from my home in Chevy Chase, and a religious Jew was stabbed to death in Toronto. Despite everything, Israel is as beautiful as always. I would encourage your readers to go and see for themselves.

Chevy Chase

Baltic states' uneasy Russian relationship

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski reportedly said in a recent interview that the Baltic region has been exporting stability and that no tensions exist there ("American pillar is absolutely essential," Monday). Although he is known to be a fervent supporter of the admission of Baltic States into NATO, his remarks could be interpreted as an argument against expanding NATO to countries that already enjoy peace and stability.

Yet the Baltic States also enjoyed stability and peace between the two world wars, then fell victim to Soviet aggression at the outbreak of World War II. Russia currently maintains cordial relations with the West, but this policy does not apply to the Baltic States. Russia has not signed border treaties with Estonia and Latvia; it still subjects Estonian exports to double-duties; and it often accuses Baltic States of nonexistent discrimination against their Russian populations. When the Estonian parliament last month passed a resolution condemning both the Soviet and Nazi occupations of that country, a spokesman from the Russian foreign ministry accused Estonia of trying to rewrite history, implying that Estonia had voluntarily joined the Soviet Union in 1940.

Various factors played a role in the Soviet Union's disintegration in 1991. One of the main contributing factors was the Baltic peoples' independence movement, which in turn affected other nations subjugated by the Soviet empire. For this reason alone, the Baltic States deserve to be admitted to NATO at its upcoming summit in Prague.



Living high off the hog

Not surprisingly, somewhere in the huge farm spending bill there's a subsidy for [baloney]. There must be for S. Richard Tolman to accuse thinking people of "farm bashing" because they are opposed to the new act ("Farmer-bashing all the new rage," Commentary, Thursday).

Where to start?

How about Mr. Tolman's explanation that the farm subsidy program was started to "keep farmers in business and the food supply constant so costs can stay low." There's the rub: "to keep farmers in business." Why do we have to do that? Farmers going out of business doesn't mean food won't be produced, only that those particular farmers who are bowing out won't be doing the producing. That's the way it should be in a free-market economy.

Also, how about Mr. Tolman's rhetorical question about 328,000 farm and ranch jobs lost? The food still will be produced if there's a market, and megafarms would do it much more efficiently. Sadly, though, they still will be subsidized because the program is based on acres, not who is doing the tilling.

As for Mr. Tolman's reference to farmers' hours and "well-worked pickups," the largest farm in my neck of the woods received $500,000 in subsidies between 1996 and 2001 (information that, conveniently for recipients, will no longer be available thanks to an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act provided in the bill). The farmer's hired help rides in an air-conditioned, stereo-equipped tractor while the "farmer" develops a golf course and also receives pay as a local government official. Fortunately, though, he does enjoy some respite from all this toil while flying his personal aircraft or visiting his condos in Northern Michigan and Mexico.

I know from personal observation that an awful lot of farmers with substantial assets (excluding land) pay little or no income tax from incomes of all types because of "losses" on the farm.

Then there are favorable rates on property taxes and exemptions from local land-use ordinances.

I wish the rest of us could enjoy what Mr. Tolman, referring to 2001 farm earnings, called "the lowest real net cash income since the Great Depression." Whatever that is, it affords a great living standard and leaves a bit left over for supporting your local congressman and a powerful lobby to keep the money coming in.


Schoolcraft, Mich.

More Republicans ante up for NEA

The American Arts Alliance would like to respond to "GOP panel fights boost in arts funds" (Wednesday).

First, the headline implied a purely partisan fight against funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which is not accurate. The House amendment that the article attributed solely to Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat, was actually co-sponsored by Reps. Steve Horn, California Republican; Nancy L. Johnson, Connecticut Republican; Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat; and Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican. Note that of the five co-sponsors, three of them are Republicans.

Furthermore, last year's $10 million increase for the NEA's Challenge America initiative was secured with the help of 33 Republicans, a number that grew to a total of 42 this week for another $10 million increase for fiscal 2003. Second, the article insinuated that the "Broadway Bares XII" event was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA awarded a $10,000 grant to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS for one specific project only: performances and master classes that are part of the New York Dance Festival to be held in September. The performances and master classes will be conducted by some of the most prestigious companies in modern dance, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the Trisha Brown Dance Company. No NEA funding contributed to the "Broadway Bares XII" project.

Political opposition to the NEA has softened considerably during the past few years as the agency has been restricted from funding individual artists and providing general operating support for arts organizations. Congress has approved pumping more dollars into underserved and rural communities through the NEA's Challenge America initiative, and 40 percent of the NEA's budget is divided among the 50 state arts agencies and then distributed as grants at the state level. The remaining 60 percent of the budget is regranted at the federal level with no more than 15 percent of NEA funds going to one state.

We are proud of the fact that the nonprofit arts generate $134 billion in economic activity every year and represent a substantial portion of the national economy. That amount comprises $53.2 billion of direct spending by arts organizations and $80.8 billion in spending by audiences, including hotels, meals and souvenirs. Total yearly tax revenues generated by the nonprofit arts are $24.4 billion ($10.5 billion in federal income tax, $7.3 billion in state income tax and $6.6 billion in local income tax).

The modest investment in the NEA is well worth it.


Executive director

American Arts Alliance


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