Sir, – By calling severe clinical depression a “genetic disease that Herzl inherited from his grandparents” and using this as the reason for the heroin addiction and suicides in his family, “On Herzl’s birthday, grandson honored for first time” (May 2) does a disservice to all those who have depression in their family.

I can understand the motivation of Jerry Klinger to get Herzl’s grandson buried, but to say that Stephen Theodore Norman committed suicide because of a “disease” is to scare everyone who carries a genetic disposition to depression.

Norman’s mother reportedly was committed to a sanatorium in his infancy.

He fought in the British army, suffered major disappointments and the heroin death of his aunt and suicide of his uncle, and then learned that the rest of his family had been killed in the Holocaust. Add to this the fact that having a family member who commits suicide greatly increases the odds of further suicide.

We can say that Norman’s genetic predisposition combined with all the separations and losses he suffered, and his presumable lack of a support system, led to his suicide.

CHARLOTTE SLOPAK GOLLER
Jerusalem
The writer is a clinical psychologist

Welcome mat

Sir, – Bruce Acks (“Discovering the Palestinian territories,” Comment & Features, May 2) states that it is illegal for Israelis to visit Ramallah. The reason is because it it life-threatening to enter those areas. Even today it is considered a miracle if a Jew accidentally drives into a Palestinian town and is unharmed.

It does not seem like the Palestinians are eager to have us tour their areas. In the last number of years, the army has allowed Jews to go to Joseph’s Tomb only once a month, very late at night, and only for a few minutes. The reason is in order not to provoke the Arabs.

Rachel’s tomb near Bethlehem is now unrecognizable amid the tons of cement that surround it.

There is a reason for all the cement: Palestinians were shooting at people who came to pray there. Jews are constantly stoned and harassed even in consensus areas such as Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.

I am sure Acks would not have been as welcome there had he been walking around in a kippa or had his hosts known he was Jewish.

NANCY CHERNOFSKY
Jerusalem

Sir, – Bruce Acks describes the wonders and warmth of Palestinian culture by visiting Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, etc. After all, as he correctly notes, why travel as far as Meron when you can more easily visit Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus? He ascribes this behavior to an irrational fear.

It is quite clear that Acks never heard of Police Cpl.

Mahdat Yosef, who bled to death defending Joseph’s Tomb in October 2000. Nor has he heard of the shooting and murder of Ben Yosef Livnat, who was trying to visit the tomb in April of last year.

Rabbi Acks, who lives in Brooklyn, believes that we could all get along were it not for our leaders. He should explain why the noted writer Yosef Chaim Brenner was murdered almost exactly 91 years ago in a Muslim-instigated pogrom in Jaffa. After all, there were no settlements and no security barriers in those days, and the Arabs were just as friendly.

MATTIAS ROTENBERG
Petah Tikva

God for Godless

Sir, – With regard to “Falling out of love with ‘Hatikva’” (Terra Incognita, May 2), one wonders if it has ever been suggested that the British change their national anthem. The word God appears no fewer than three times in an anthem that has only seven lines, and yet, according to the latest research, the United Kingdom has the largest number of professed atheists in the European Union!

ELLIE MORRIS
Asseret

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