Letters to the editor, June 9

Begin's coup Sir, - Having made aliya in the summer of 1977 with our three American-born children, my wife and I were intensely hopeful that peace would come and Israel's wars would end. In my naivete, I thought that the destruction of the Osirak reactor was a first step in a new chapter for Israel. That did not happen. What did occur in the Nineties in the US, where we were living, was the recognition given to the memory of prime minister Menachem Begin for his brilliant stratagem. One congressman in Pennsylvania told me, "Your Begin did not just destroy a factory, he saved the world." The governor of Pennsylvania, who later became the first homeland secretary, explained at a Republican house party how "important it was to recall that without that reactor in Iraq destroyed we might all be the next targets of Saddam Hussein." A retired FBI agent told me that Begin's name had been immortalized among his colleagues. "When the situation was critical, the Israeli prime minister was not afraid to act to ensure the future of his country, and the world" ("When Armageddon loomed," Yehuda Avner, June 1). DAVID GEFFEN Jerusalem Lost and found Sir, - "The Lost Jews" (June 1), a story of Jewish survival, provided a good counterweight to the stories of Jews who are assimilating and leaving Judaism. To imagine that there are people who have kept some sort of Jewish connection for hundreds of years in Gestapo-like conditions defies belief. However, describing Marranos, or anusim, as Jews "whose family converted to Christianity to escape persecution" is a deeply inaccurate description. Anusim means "forced ones," and many of these people were indeed converted against their will. One story tells of the day in 1497 when the Jews of Portugal were told to leave the country. Every Jew was directed to leave by the port in Lisbon; and when the authorities had all the Portuguese Jews in one place they conducted a mass baptism amongst the tens of thousands stranded there. Once baptized, even unwillingly, they were then Christians, according to doctrine. Prevented from leaving Portugal, they became the backbone of the anusim in the Iberian Peninsula and South America. I personally take great heart from the stories of these people, and wish the committed ones a speedy return to their people. ASHLEY PEREZ Efrat Sir, - This fascinating article, which referred to "the much-publicized 2001 restoration of the Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue" in Recife, should have mentioned that the restoration was due to the philanthropic generosity of both Moises and Joseph Safra, as acknowledged by the plaque in the synagogue lobby. Indeed, many of Brazil's Jewish institutions are largely funded by the Safra family, who have now replaced the Rothschilds as the leading Jewish philanthropists. May they go from strength to strength. COLIN L. LECI Jerusalem Try again Sir, - "Smoking health minister pledges to persuade kids not to start" (June 1) by your five-star health reporter Judy Siegel deserved a better picture: someone during an asthma attack, or having difficulty walking. Instead it showed two trendy young guys having fun - an empty wine glass, sunglasses stylishly placed, serious under-dressing, roars of shared laughter - and a smoke. The tobacco lobby couldn't have done better! M. NIEWEG Jerusalem Safe to travel in Israel? Sir, - I would like to visit Israel next August with my fianc e, preferably renting a car and traveling on our own. I would like to know if it's safe, or if conditions do not allow it considering that Italian newspapers often report that travel in Israel is still unsafe. I would appreciate any advice. ALBERTO BAGGINI Milan