An Israeli Doctor, Off to War: ‘We Have Nothing Against the People of Gaza’

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  • Instilling the Joy of Music in Children
  • How to Restore Trust in Our Institutions
  • Paperbacks at War

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Hamas viciously slaughtered Israeli men, women and children in their homes, but we have nothing against the people of Gaza, who are brutally oppressed by a terrorist organization.

Like many other Israelis, I received a call telling me to immediately report for duty after the attack. All reservists know this call, which comes without any notice and could instantly change your life.

A decade ago, during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, I served as a military doctor. The same day that the United Nations announced a cease-fire, I found myself in the twilight near the Gaza border in a field that burst into flames. My brigade’s medical armored personnel carrier had been hit by a rocket. Five soldiers, most of them medics, died while fiercely defending our sovereignty.

The latest escalation in the region brings us to the verge of another military ground operation. It seems that our enemies mistakenly decided to take advantage of the rift in Israeli society.

But those who seek our destruction will find us united against any adversary. They should listen to Joe Biden’s story about his meeting as a young senator with Golda Meir, then the prime minister, in the 1970s.

Before we turned a surprise attack by all our neighbors in the Yom Kippur War into a victory, she revealed to him our “secret weapon”: “We have no place else to go.”

Tomer Saad
Kiryat Ono, Israel
The writer, an internist, is a reservist officer in the Israel Defense Forces.

Instilling the Joy of Music in Children


To the Editor:

“We’re Teaching Music in Schools All Wrong,” by Sammy Miller (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 28), got so many things right! We need to instill musical joy in children from birth as parents and teachers by modeling passion for making and listening to music together.

During Covid, we witnessed people turning to music as an antidote to isolation, singing from the rooftops and jamming on neighborhood stoops. Parents curated playlists to bring emotional order to a child’s day.

As a lifelong early childhood music teacher, I know that music is an incredibly powerful tool for self-understanding, self-care and community building.

When we guide very young children to experience the deep emotion of music — before they even have words — we nurture lifelong passion that yields a temperamental disposition to learn an instrument.

Children who eat, sleep and breathe music for fun, especially in early childhood, will run toward any opportunity to be part of a social music scene, even if it means squeaking away at the clarinet for endless hours alone practicing in the basement.

Let’s give our infants and toddlers a rich diet of ​listening to and making music — to ready our next generation of avid concertgoers and incredible performers.

Renee Bock
The writer is the early childhood director at the Riverdale Y.M.-Y.W.H.A.

To the Editor:

How heartening to see such humane, sensible suggestions for addressing music lesson attrition! Within the instrumental lesson parameters, these are excellent ideas. Taking this further, suppose we could actually broaden those parameters?

Twenty years ago I began to experiment with a child-centered music lesson. The idea was to help each learner discover their particular musical inclination — whatever that might be — and keep the learning attached to that inclination.

For some, the entry point was songwriting. For others it was improvisation or figuring out tunes by ear. One little fellow was obsessed with composers and music history: a pint-size musicologist!

Each student learned skills and concepts as needed to support their passion. Extraordinary transformations occurred. Children who had failed miserably in their previous lessons became competent, joyful music makers. Parents often reported that lessons had become the high point of their children’s week — sometimes of their lives.

This is not to suggest that we replace the standard instrumental lesson! We need both models: one designed for instrument mastery, the other as a personalized alternative for those who could benefit.

Kudos to the author for opening the door to new possibilities.

Meryl Danziger
New York

To the Editor:

I am grateful for Sammy Miller’s guest essay.

As a music educator, I too have advocated a more inclusive pedagogical approach, moving beyond the narrow, misguided emphasis on literacy in staff notation, which too often displaces the ways that humans have engaged with music throughout history: with our bodies, and with a sense of belonging.

But Mr. Miller skirts a critical issue: Too many students lack access to any music instruction, especially in early childhood. Disconcertingly, my research reveals that these disparities are linked to the geography of race and social class.

In New York City, elementary-age students deprived of music are disproportionately concentrated in Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn, in schools where parent associations cannot afford “supplemental” arts programming.

By all means, we should focus on the joys of listening to and learning music together, improvising on an instrument, making beats, composing songs, etc. First, though, we need to make sure everyone has access to music education.

Andrew Aprile
The writer is an early childhood music educator and a doctoral lecturer at CUNY City College of New York Center for Worker Education.

How to Restore Trust in Our Institutions

Credit…Illustration by Sam Whitney/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The New Politics of Trust,” by M. Anthony Mills (Opinion guest essay, Oct. 6):

Mr. Mills makes a powerful case for why the growing distrust of science has become an index of growing political polarization as well as a central feature of our contemporary politics.

Ironically, the pandemic played a critical role, as the fears that became directed more toward the vaccine than the virus contributed to the erosion of trust in institutions. The call to “follow the science” was complicated by shifts in statements and mandates, even as the corrosive effects of our political discourse and the febrile workings of social media exacerbated public skepticism not just about government but about expertise more broadly.

At the New York Academy of Sciences, we have been working to restore trust in science but agree we can do so only if we acknowledge Mr. Mills’s other main point: that institutions of all kinds need to use this moment to re-evaluate their own role in generating current levels of public disaffection.

Nicholas B. Dirks
New York
The writer is the president and C.E.O. of the New York Academy of Sciences.

To the Editor:

Like M. Anthony Mills, over the past decade I have become increasingly worried about the effects of political polarization on trust in institutions, especially scientific institutions.

One unfortunate accelerant of this trend has been for those of us in positions of institutional authority to become ever more partisan ourselves, publicly aligning with political factions. While this response is understandable on an emotional level, it is ultimately counterproductive and will lead many who disagree with our politics to reject our expertise as well.

Here are a few concrete suggestions for how leaders of scientific institutions can step back from polarization: Scientific journals should stop endorsing candidates for political office; universities should evaluate faculty candidates according to their scientific expertise and teaching ability rather than their commitment to left-wing political ideology; and the medical community should avoid progressive linguistic fads and communicate with the public in plain, commonly understood language instead.

Colm P. Kelleher
Cambridge, Mass.
The writer is a postdoctoral researcher in biophysics at Harvard University.

Paperbacks at War

A heavily read copy of “Strange Fruit,” Lillian Smith’s steamy 1944 novel about interracial romance, which had aroused controversy at home.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times
American propaganda, like these posters, contrasted Nazi book burning with the American commitment to freedom of expression.Credit…Collection of Molly Guptill Manning

To the Editor:

Re “Powerful Weapons in Their Pockets,” about the paperbacks given to American soldiers in World War II (Arts, Oct. 7):

After reading this article and seeing the two propaganda posters showing Nazi book burning, I thought my father and my uncles must be spinning in their graves over the current book-banning issue in this country.

All of them were World War II veterans, good Republicans, Christians and patriots.

Frederick McGarrity
Pacific Grove, Calif.

To the Editor:

When I was in Army basic training at Fort Dix in 1960, we had a “smoke ’em if you got ’em” break. I took out my paperback copy of “Spartacus,” by Howard Fast.

My sergeant demanded: “What are you doing? Put that away. There is no reading in the Army.”

Apparently Sarge was not a World War II vet.

Don Noyes
River Vale, N.J.

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