Yossi Klein Halevi’s book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor (written in English, translated into Arabic and soon to be translated into Hebrew) is a must-read explanation of the Zionist and Israeli experience, the first time an Israeli Jew reached out to Palestinians to explain what Israel means to the Jewish people.
Yossi invited Palestinians to respond, and he received many hostile emails but also a thoughtful and serious response from Mohammad Dajani, once was a leader in Fatah.
Mohammad’s letters are included in the republished paperback of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor along with 50 pages of other Palestinian responses.
Both men come from extremist backgrounds. Mohammad explains how his mind and heart opened to the Israeli experience when his father was treated respectfully as a cancer patient at Hadassah Medical Center by Israeli doctors and nurses, and his mother was treated with respect by Israeli doctors at the time of her death.
As a teenager and young man, Yossi joined the extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane in protecting elderly Jews in Brooklyn from anti-Semitic attacks, but he rejected Kahane when the extremist rabbi turned his wrath against Palestinian Arabs.
Below is the link to an interview of Yossi and Mohammad conducted by David Horowitz in The Times of Israel. The two men speak frankly and honestly about themselves and their personal histories, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the evolution of their understanding of the “other.” Their dialogue represents a pathway to reconciliation. Neither man, however, wears rose-colored glasses. Each understands the hatred and fear that define the relationship of Israelis neighbors with their Palestinian neighbors and the risks each takes in advocating for dialogue and learning about the other.
Palestinians bombed Mohammad’s car in an assassination attempt after he took 27 Palestinian students to Auschwitz to learn about the Holocaust. He refuses to deny or retract on moral grounds anything he said publicly after his journey to the death camp.
Mohammad believes that many Palestinians are open to learning about Jews and Israelis, but Palestinian extremists threaten Palestinians who do so with the charge of treason and assassination.
Yossi believes that many Israelis and Diaspora Jews too are open to learning more about the Palestinian experience despite Jewish extremists charging such efforts as disloyal and treasonous.
Read the interview (link below) and then buy Yossi’s second edition paperback volume Letters to My Palestinian Neighbors.
Claudia Sobral said:
Thank you John for amplifying their stories and courage. We, as a society, need to pay more attention to voices of people like Yossi and Mohammed. Yasher Koach.
Anne Brener said:
Thanks John. I am reading the book on my way to Israel. Delayed in Paris where Jen and I have colds. Worse things have happened than being trapped in Paris.
Dictated Into my iPhone. Enjoy the typos. Rabbi Anne Brener, LCSW author of Mourning and Mitzvah 25th Anniversary Third expanded edition available now 423-578-2892