Tel Aviv University

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a very cruel neurological disease, usually first appearing during the third, fourth or fifth decade of life – the prime of life – and totally unpredictable. The insulating cover – called myelin – of the axons of nerve cells that carry electrical impulses in the brain and spinal cord is attacked by the body’s immune system, which recognizes it as an “intruder.”

ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease – is indeed tragic and terminal. The initial symptoms can vary from person to person. One sufferer may have trouble holding a pen or lifting a glass of water, while another person may experience a change in vocal pitch when speaking. ALS is typically a disease that involves a gradual onset. In addition, the rate at which it progresses in sufferers also differs. Symptoms can begin in the muscles that control speech and swallowing or in the hands, arms, legs or feet.

There is only one day in the Jewish year when it is quite safe for children to ride their bicycles – of course with a suitable helmet and preferably knee and shoulder pads – in the usually busy streets and highways of Israel. It is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which will be observed this year – from sunset on Tuesday, September 18 and will end about 25 hours later on Wednesday 19.