Sir: The characterisation in Sarah Helm's article "Israeli rule buries hope of studying evolution" (10 January) of Atra Kadisha as "a grave watch force which patrols excavation sites and intimidates archaeologists" is as inaccurate as would be a description of the English as "people who eat fish and chips and fight at soccer games".
Atra Kadisha is the vehicle for Jews who accept the age-old religious and cultural mandate to prevent the desecration of the dead. To this end, Atra Kadisha volunteers write, speak, pray, negotiate, travel, meet, publish, debate, and protest (but never, never "intimidate"). The "two truck loads of bones ... [returned] for burial" described by your report supports Atra Kadisha's contention that the Israel Antiquities Authority was storing thousands of bones, removed from burial caves and never returned to the Ministry of Religious Affairs for reburial.
We believe our ancestors should not serve as the laboratory specimens of scientists.
We further believe the desecration of the dead brings pain to the dead and grief to the living, and we believe a violation of the dignity of the dead violates the dignity of the living.
Brooklyn, New York