- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins - US; Reprint edition (17 July 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 006284492X
- ISBN-13: 978-0062844927
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 218 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 146,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor Paperback – 17 Jul 2019
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"One of the best one-volume introductions to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."--Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic
"Refreshingly honest...In explaining Israel to the Palestinians, [Halevi] appeals to a certain ideal, a higher ambition, a sense of wonder and beauty."--The Forward
"Eloquent and important."--Jewish Boston
"Yossi Klein Halevi wants to extend an olive branch to his Palestinian neighbors, and does so, in his incredibly compelling and heartfelt book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor."--Jerusalem Post
"A powerful, challenging, and deeply moving plea for human understanding across one of the most tragic divides in modern politics."--Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
"Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor conveys the urgency and poetry of the Israeli story in a way that is accessible to any reader. I hope everyone will read these beautiful letters--Palestinians and Jews and anyone else interested in understanding who the Jews are and why we returned home."--Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive, Jewish Agency for Israel
"A poetic and moving account...heartfelt, empathetic."--Publishers Weekly
"The tantalizing proposition of Halevi's book, never belabored but always peeking from between the lines, is that faith might unite these two warring tribes whereas reason only fanned the flames of discord."--Tablet Magazine
"By providing an honest, soulful and balanced recap of two emotional narratives, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor has given us a spiritual roadmap, if not to peace, then at least to hope."--Jewish Journal
From the Back Cover
Given our circumstances, “neighbor” may be too casual a word to describe our relationship. We are intruders into each other’s dreams, violators of each other’s sense of home. We are living incarnations of each other’s worst historical nightmares. Neighbors?
Lyrical and evocative, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor is one Israeli’s powerful attempt to reach beyond the wall that separates Israelis and Palestinians. In a series of letters, Yossi Klein Halevi explains what motivated him to leave his native New York in his twenties and move to Israel to participate in the drama of the renewal of a Jewish homeland and help ensure that it succeeds as a morally responsible, democratic state in the Middle East.
In this taut and provocative book, Halevi endeavors to untangle the ideological and emotional knot that has defined the conflict for nearly a century. Using history and personal experience as his guides, he unravels the complex strands of faith, pride, anger, and anguish he feels as a Jew living in Israel.
Halevi’s letters speak not only to his anonymous Palestinian neighbor but to all concerned global citizens, helping us understand the painful choices confronting Israelis and Palestinians that will ultimately help determine the fate of the region.
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Who knows, yet, where that invitation will lead? Who knows how many Palestinian neighbors the author will reach? I can’t help thinking that there is an expanded audience for this book, and that audience includes anyone who really wishes to try to understand “the Jewish story and the significance of Israel in Jewish identity”—while remaining open to and aware of the “neighbor’s” narrative and beliefs.
In a recent interview with The Times of Israel, the author explained:
"This book isn’t about optimism or pessimism but an attempt to explain the Jewish and Israeli story to our neighbors – why the Jewish people never gave up its claim to this land even from afar, why I left my home in New York City in 1982 to move here. In my previous book [At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land], I tried to listen to my neighbors. In this book I’m asking my neighbors to listen to me.
In all these years of conflict, no Israeli writer has written directly to our Palestinian neighbors, and to the Arab and Muslim worlds generally, explaining who we are and why we’re here. We defend our story to the whole world, but we don’t bother explaining ourselves to our neighbors. We’re rightly outraged by the daily attacks on our history and legitimacy that fill the Palestinian media and the Arab world’s media. But we’ve never tried to tell them our story.
This book combines the two commitments of my life: explaining and defending the Jewish narrative, and seeking partners in the Muslim world. The Jewish people is divided into two camps. One is defending the Israeli narrative, the other is fighting for peace. The argument of this book is that the two are related: Peace won’t happen so long as our narrative is negated by the other side. You can’t make peace with a country that has no right to exist."
Well, *he* may not think the book is about optimism or pessimism. But in its efforts to articulate and communicate history and belief and suggest some actual strategies for the future—strategies that require choice, compromise, and change for everyone involved—Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor offers a model for future discourse. And that’s enough to make me optimistic.
May this new book reach many, many readers. Among the author’s Palestinian neighbors, yes. But also among Jews around the world.
And, ideally, among journalists, activists, and others who could also benefit from a more complete and nuanced awareness of “the Jewish and Israeli story,” too.
1. Though written as a kind letter to help his Palestinian neighbor understand him/us, the case it lays out for the attachment of Jews (as a religion and a people) to Israel is equally important for Diaspora Jews to read, since many of us could not cogently state the case for Israel with any depth or insight beyond what we learned in Sunday School, maybe with a little Holocaust and Torah thrown in. Halevi fleshes out that case in the context of our emotions, our shared historical traumas, our hopes, and most importantly, our religious obligations as Jews including our relationship with G-d, the spiritual aspect of Jewish peoplehood, and our unique (not better or worse) spiritual role in the world, as he says “We are a particular people with a universal goal.” Unfortunately, many of us frame the Israel-Palestine conflict in simple terms like “fairness” and “compromise” that infantilize those living in this complex religious, political, ethnic, economic, and historical conflict as well as those of us who care so deeply about it. This conflict is much more than any playing in the sandbox analogy can do justice. (NB: I am undecided about if these letters have a role for Israeli Jews … a good discussion)
2. Halevi rightfully dismisses the idea that winning an argument or court case against the narrative of either side could be a successful path forward. Each side’s narrative is “so deeply rooted in our being, so defining of our collective and personal existence that forfeiting our respective narratives would be a betrayal.” Instead, Halevi writes, “we need to challenge the stories we tell about each other, which have taken hold in our societies. We have imposed our worst historical nightmares on the other. To you we are colonialists, Crusaders. And to us you are the latest genocidal enemy seeking to destroy the Jewish people. Can we, instead, see each other as two traumatized peoples, each clinging to the same sliver of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, neither of whom will find peace or justice until we make our peace with the other’s claim to justice?”
3. Halevei reminds us “Occupation penetrates the soul.” He says of his time in the IDF, “When I first got to Gaza the army slang offended me…After a few weeks, I, too, adopted the slang mocking Gaza’s misery.” This speaks not to who is right or wrong nor who is more to blame, but to the moral injury of the occupier. There Halevi also learned of the Palestinian dream not only to be free of Israeli occupation, but also “to be free of Israel’s existence entirely” where the “graffiti promised death to Jews” as he “veered between moral and existential fears,” both reasonable and essential Jewish responses to Gaza.
4. Halevi clarifies that “We are trapped, you and I, in a seemingly hopeless cycle. Not a ‘cycle of violence’ – a lazy formulation that tells us nothing about why our conflict exists, let alone how to end it. Instead, we’re trapped in a ‘cycle of denial.’ Your side denies my people’s legitimacy, my right to self-determination, and my side prevents your people from achieving national sovereignty. The cycle of denial defines our shared existence, an impossible intimacy of violence, suppression rage, and despair. That is the cycle we can only break together.’
The book is very rich in thought and emotion. I could write more, but I only would use more of the author’s words. I have nothing at all to add to his kindness and wisdom except a summary using his words: “No political formula or compromise, no arbitrary line on a map, can address each people’s deepest anxieties. We need to acknowledge why a two-state solution is so traumatic for so many of us, Israelis and Palestinians.” He teaches us that “we must learn to accommodate each other’s narratives” because we can’t change the stories we tell about ourselves, but we can change the stories we tell ourselves about each other. Read the book <3
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