March 13: Esther's tomb

Hamadan is not the site of the city of Shushan, which is the biblical name for Susa, an Elamite city in southwest Persia. Ancient Hamadan was called Ecbatana.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Esther's tomb Sir, - I was brought up in Hamadan, Iran, where my father, a Muslim, attended the Alliance Israelite school. My elder daughter is named after Esther, and so I was gratified to read that the mausoleum of Esther and Mordechai, which I have visited on numerous occasions, is to be officially protected by the Iranian authorities ("Where is the tomb of Mordechai and Esther?" Michael Freund, March 11). It is therefore a pity that there were some misleading statements in this op-ed. First, Hamadan is not the site of the city of Shushan, which is the biblical name for Susa, an Elamite city in southwest Persia. Ancient Hamadan was called Ecbatana. Secondly, there is no contemporaneous historical record of Esther's existence, and no certainty about the identity of the Achaemenid king to whom she was married. Some argue that it was one of the Xerxes; others, one of the Artaxerxes. Nor is there any other independent evidence that she had a son named Darius. Finally, it is tendentious to write that "the normally hostile Iranian regime took the rather unusual step of adding a Jewish holy site to its National Heritage List." The present government may be outspoken in its condemnation of Israel, but it still permits the largest Jewish community in the Islamic world to live in Iran and regards monuments such as the mausoleum of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan as much a part of its national inheritance as Persepolis. PARVINE H. MERRILLEES Mailly le Château, France Michael Freund responds: Respectable sources, such as the late Prof. Ze'ev Vilna'i, write that Hamadan is traditionally held as the site of the biblical Shushan. Stop the torment Sir - With all the pain that it entails ("Noam Schalit 'worried' task of freeing Gilad will pass on to next gov't," March 11) and taking past experience into account, we have to face the fact that Gilad Schalit may no longer be alive. The fact that Hizbullah held off for so long when Israel was attacking its strongholds in Lebanon was not because of its "heroism," but because it had only bodies to give back. The same might be true of Hamas: The fact that after a devastating war it is are still introducing impossible conditions for Gilad's release suggests that it too has no living soldier to return. It's 18 months since there was a sign of life, and there is no logical reason Hamas would not give one, if it could - that would only put more pressure on the Israeli government than all the rumors that torture not just his parents but the whole of Israel. Let's give Hamas everything it wants - but only for a live Gilad and, with all due respect for the suffering this will cause his parents, not for a body. I pray I'm wrong, but it's time we stopped allowing these subhumans to continue playing with us. CECILIA HENRY Kfar Bialik Sir, - The Israelis are following a continuous failed policy in attempting to free their kidnapped soldier. No amount of caving in to the terror group will produce any results. The present policy has not worked, and must be changed. STEVE GURE Coconut Creek, Florida New grim reality Sir, - Marc Schneier lists a sobering array of hateful, murderous acts committed by Muslim extremists against Jews in many countries of Europe. He therefore stresses the urgency of the need for Jewish-Muslim dialogue ("We must face the real interfaith challenge," March 11) and goes on to question why Jews are "uncomfortable" with his proposals for a new reality of bridge-building and partnership-making. I suggest it is Rabbi Schneier who fails to grasp the new grim realty, and that it is he who should be far more anxious and hesitant about how to proceed. Muslim extremism is not at all limited to the examples cited by the rabbi, but is engaged in an implacable terrorist war against entire countries, including Islamic ones in the Middle East. It constitutes a real threat to the entire western world and people everywhere who refuse to accept its fundamentalist program. Regrettably, I doubt the success of the rabbi's proposals in altering this reality. ZEV CHAMUDOT Petah Tikva What defines the Arab hero Sir, - There's no surprise that West Bank Palestinians prefer Ismail Haniyeh to Mahmoud Abbas ("Poll: Haniyeh beats Abbas in West Bank," March 10). In fact, the common theme on the Arab street is that the one who stands up to either Israel, the US, or both is the hero of the Arab world. Most recently, Haniyeh and his Hamas thugs have been standing up to Israel with rock-hard rhetoric and rockets, unlike the soft Abbas, who woos with words. Yasser Arafat was a master of the Arab game, speaking of peace to the world media in English while preaching destruction in Arabic. But even Arafat didn't invent the "Arab hero." Egypt's Nasser, Trans-Jordan's Hussein, and Syria's Hafez Assad were all Arab heroes who threatened to "drive the Jews into the sea." Nasser could have brought the Egyptians into a flourishing world of economic and scientific prosperity, but he traded it all in for bravado and his own ego. S. JONAH PRESSMAN Jerusalem Hanging tough Sir, - For weeks the Post has regaled us with the unyielding maneuvering for power and prestige between parties representing our Knesset. I pray our leaders retain the same ferocious determination when critical matters of borders and the legal, legitimate right of Jews to live in the Land of Israel come up once more. BETTY MISHEIKER Jerusalem