Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

New York Times bestseller "A profound and original book, the work of a gifted thinker."--Daphne Merkin, The Wall Street JournalAttempting to break the agonizing impasse between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli commentator and award-winning author of Like Dreamers directly addresses his Palestinian neighbors in this taut and provocative book, empathizing with Palestinian suffering and longof Like...

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Title:Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor
Author:Yossi Klein Halevi
Rating:

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor Reviews

  • Laila Kanon

    I was profoundly moved by this book. Many times, I had to put it down, just to breathe or else just let a tear or two drops onto my cheeks as I read between pages. This author bares his heart and soul to his “neighbour” something that involve vulnerability with the hope that his neighbour will ignore her/his prejudice and reads it with goodwill and openness.

    Some issues that I want to address in this book:

    1) Why address the Arab neighbour as Palestinian? I notice the acceptable generalization t

    I was profoundly moved by this book. Many times, I had to put it down, just to breathe or else just let a tear or two drops onto my cheeks as I read between pages. This author bares his heart and soul to his “neighbour” something that involve vulnerability with the hope that his neighbour will ignore her/his prejudice and reads it with goodwill and openness.

    Some issues that I want to address in this book:

    1) Why address the Arab neighbour as Palestinian? I notice the acceptable generalization that all “Palestinians” are Arabs even from those who should know better i.e. the intellectuals. So, what do you call the Jews who never left the land ever since the mass expulsions from the Babylonian era, Roman era, Crusader era, Muslim era and the brief British era? Hard to believe but small number of Jews did stay on and historical records back that up. Aren’t these Jews who remained also ought to be address as Palestinians too? If not, why not? There’s a sports slang called a ball-hog. It is a term used to describe a player who handles the ball exclusively. It seems to me the Arab hog the ball, and no one dare to question as to why and how come, and simply accept the fact as the way it is. Isn’t that a curious thing?

    2) The author appeals to his neighbour for an open dialogue that may leads to end this protected limbo of their competing claims. But has anyone noticed, particularly since 1948, that Israel is the only party that is eager to extend the olive branch toward the Arab-Palestinian? Alas the gestures never been reciprocated. I think it is a gross injustice for the international community’s failures to make the Arab-Palestinian leaderships, from Arafat to Abbas accountable for their rejectionist stance. Why is it not obvious to everybody that the reason why “Palestinians” are still stateless is due to its’ own leaders’ rejectionist stance. Ironically, it is Israel that always gets the blame for the statelessness of the Arab-Palestinians. So, what’s really at play here? One is either blind to facts and truth or there’s handsome profit to be made for the conflict to remain at it is at the expense of Israel’s desire to resolve the conflict once and for all.

    3) I disagree with this author who gives too much weight to the Muslims’ claim to Jerusalem and Judaism’s holy sites. It sounds like appeasement (with good intention of course) and as history of this conflict could attest, appeasement of any forms is yet to bear good fruits—hence my skepticism.

    This might be off topic, but reading this book got me thinking. In my opinion, Islam is not an authentic Abrahamic religion. Judeo-Christianity is the continuation of Judaism that centre on a Jewish story which both followers waiting with anticipation of the Messiah: one the coming and the other the returning. On the other hand, Islam is a religion that Arab-ized essentially a Jewish story with the addition of Muhammad—an Arab—as “the last prophet.” To be part of Abrahamic religion, I think, Islam must first acknowledge a Jewish story as its foundation which isn’t the case. And the only link to Abrahamic that I can think of was Ishmael and he wasn’t part of a Jewish story. So there.

  • Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎

    I’ll admit that it was with some skepticism that I picked up this book, but am very happy to have read it. I applaud the author for his efforts in extending a hand in peace to his Palestinian neighbor. Halevi’s 10 open letters seems to me a genuine conciliatory gesture, when he says:

  • Cam

    In Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, Yossi Klein Halevi intends to break the silence between Israelis and Palestinians. The book details different viewpoints from both sides of the conflict, as well as the author’s own viewpoint and personal story, all in an attempt to explain the Israeli side of the conflict to Palestinians, while staying sympathetic to both sides. The author, being Jewish and living in Israel, takes a stance that is more in favor of Israel, but in support of a two-state sol

    In Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, Yossi Klein Halevi intends to break the silence between Israelis and Palestinians. The book details different viewpoints from both sides of the conflict, as well as the author’s own viewpoint and personal story, all in an attempt to explain the Israeli side of the conflict to Palestinians, while staying sympathetic to both sides. The author, being Jewish and living in Israel, takes a stance that is more in favor of Israel, but in support of a two-state solution.

    The book was written as a “letter” to a supposed “neighbor” that represents those living in the West Bank. More specifically, the neighbor represents the houses that the author is able to see from his house that borders the West Bank. In the writing, the author directly addresses the reader, as if they are the “neighbor” he is talking about, making the book feel very personal. This book makes an attempt to fully explain the author’s perspective on the Israel-Palestine conflict, by explaining multiple views from the pro-Israel side and by sympathizing with the Palestinian neighbor’s vies. Overall, this book does a good job in explaining the conflict better and in offering those in support of a Palestinian state a wider range of knowledge to constitute their political ideology.

    Personally, as someone who identifies as a Zionist and is very strong in his stance in support of a Jewish state in Israel, this book helped me further understand and sympathize with the Palestinian argument. From reading, I learned much more about how Palestinians view the conflict, yet from a standpoint that I feel comfortable listening to. Still, I believe that this book could have been stronger in explaining both sides if it included letters coming from the “neighbor” instead of just the author. While the book is intended to be a message from an Israeli to a Palestinian, in which the Israeli shows support for the Palestinian, I believe the book would do better in spreading the message if it included letters from both sides. Aside from this, I believe that this is a fantastic book and a must-read for anyone interested in this topic. Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor captures the emotion felt on both sides of the conflict, as well as gives a sympathetic view to both Israelis and Palestinians, and sympathy is crucial in solving this issue.

  • Howard Jaeckel

    Yossi Klein Halevi’s humanity is evident on every page of “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor.” He is a good man and a beautiful writer.

    But I cannot agree, as some have said, that he is an original thinker. For anyone who has closely followed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and knows something of its history, it requires no particular originality to recognize that the claims of both sides have substantial call on justice. As an American Jew and a strong supporter of Israel, I have long appreci

    Yossi Klein Halevi’s humanity is evident on every page of “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor.” He is a good man and a beautiful writer.

    But I cannot agree, as some have said, that he is an original thinker. For anyone who has closely followed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and knows something of its history, it requires no particular originality to recognize that the claims of both sides have substantial call on justice. As an American Jew and a strong supporter of Israel, I have long appreciated that the Palestinians have a compelling story to tell.

    But the fact is I’m no longer interested in hearing it. How can I be, given the Palestinians’ unremitting intransigence, their rejection without counteroffer of generous Israeli proposals for a two-state solution, the Palestinian Authority’s pension payments for the murder of Israeli men, women and children, and the Holocaust denial and gross anti-Semitism of Mahmoud Abbas, the supposedly moderate president of the PA?

    Mr. Halevi is keenly aware of all of this and acknowledges that he, too, sometimes no longer wants to listen to the Palestinians. But his book presents itself as an effort to start a dialog between people on the two sides, in the hope that if they can come to understand the perspective of The Other, they will perhaps be able to make the painful sacrifices that will be required by the only possible solution to the conflict – partition of the land that both sides justly believe belongs only to them. Halevi tries at length to explain to his supposed Arab interlocutor how Palestinian actions cause Israelis to despair of the possibility of peace and cause them to view as a fool’s game the making of concessions.

    In the conversation between neighbors that he envisions, Halevi makes the Israeli case very effectively. Palestinians, however, have shown absolutely no inclination to hear it. The more useful audience for his book would be liberals (including Jews) who espouse the fashionable and facile belief that peace would be possible but for Israeli intransigence. Although I have often found such attitudes to be impervious to facts and argument, Halevi’s book should make an impression on those with an open mind.

    That, however, is not Mr. Halevi’s proclaimed goal. And as a stimulus to revive the moribund “peace process,” his book is likely to have minimal effect. Rather than well-meaning encounters between Israelis and the few, mostly-invisible Palestinians susceptible to being swayed, steady, unrelenting pressure – and the loss of support from the U.S., Europe and Arab countries – is much likelier someday to produce a Palestinian leader willing to run the risks of real peace. To preserve the possibility of a peace settlement for future generations should the Palestinians’ toxic political culture ever yield to pragmatism, Israel should refrain from the construction of new settlements in the West Bank (as opposed to allowing natural growth of existing ones).

    Until the advent of that distant day, which neither we nor our children are likely to see, Israel will have to continue living by the sword. Mr. Halevi’s making his book available for free download in Arabic is a nice gesture, but it is not likely to have many takers.

  • Naama

    For me, there wasn’t much new in YKH’s words – part history part musing - they seemed very familiar. Yet, I was impressed by the eloquence with which he put together all those heartfelt thoughts and feelings.

    YKH’s letters, in nutshell, seemed to boil down to the following pleas:

    Please recognize that we are a nation, not just a religion, but that either way, Israel is an inextricable part of our peoplehood and religion.

    Please recognize our 2000-year long connection to the land and o

    For me, there wasn’t much new in YKH’s words – part history part musing - they seemed very familiar. Yet, I was impressed by the eloquence with which he put together all those heartfelt thoughts and feelings.

    YKH’s letters, in nutshell, seemed to boil down to the following pleas:

    Please recognize that we are a nation, not just a religion, but that either way, Israel is an inextricable part of our peoplehood and religion.

    Please recognize our 2000-year long connection to the land and our undying love for it. Zionism is neither racism nor colonialism.

    We don’t want to lord over you. We do recognize your connection to the land and would be more than willing to work out a 2-state solution, as difficult as it would be to give up any part of Judea and Samaria, but we need to be convinced that it won’t be just a stepping-stone to our destruction. So, please consider a paradigm shift where you stop viewing us as a cancer that must be cut out from the land and accept us as neighbors instead.

  • Kats

    There are few things in the world today more complicated than establishing and keeping peace in the Middle East (though we were led to believe that Jared Kushner was going to sort it out in a matter of weeks, ha!).

    The Jewish-Palestinian situation in Israel has certainly had more downs than ups over the last 60 years, but Halevi's collection of open letters is as educational as it is thought-provoking and inspiring. It's truly a peace offering; a literary olive branch extended to his neighbours

    There are few things in the world today more complicated than establishing and keeping peace in the Middle East (though we were led to believe that Jared Kushner was going to sort it out in a matter of weeks, ha!).

    The Jewish-Palestinian situation in Israel has certainly had more downs than ups over the last 60 years, but Halevi's collection of open letters is as educational as it is thought-provoking and inspiring. It's truly a peace offering; a literary olive branch extended to his neighbours with whom he wants to have a peaceful co-existence based on mutual respect and empathy.

    Halevi's own life journey is fascinating and adds plenty to illustrate his changing perspectives over the years. I applaud him for putting this book out into the world and hope that it will be read by many people, of any kind of religion, race or nationality, but particularly by his neighbours to whom the letters are addressed.

    4.5 stars

  • Jeanne

    (p. 19).

    My family has lived in the US for fewer than 125 years, yet Ireland (where most of my father's family comes from) and Germany (my mother's family) barely touch me. My grandfather, whose older sisters were born in Germany, spoke only a wee bit of German around us, a

    (p. 19).

    My family has lived in the US for fewer than 125 years, yet Ireland (where most of my father's family comes from) and Germany (my mother's family) barely touch me. My grandfather, whose older sisters were born in Germany, spoke only a wee bit of German around us, and we never ate German foods. I never saw "Ireland" from my other grandparents, only a vague, half-serious yearning to see Ireland. I saw it more in their love of words, their emotional cut-offs when angry.

    In Yossi Klein Halevi's

    there is a much greater sense of history than my family has, than most of us in the US have. Here, an old house is 100 years old. 9/11 touches us, but not the Depression. We talk about veterans of wars, but not the wars and their impact on our country. Halevi talks of the Holocaust, but also wars and decisions throughout the 20th century – and yearnings over the last two or three millennia. His language is often passionate and poetic as he talks about the past, which is alive and tightly intertwined with the present.

    In that context, Halevi can see the conflict between Jew and Arab and understand it. Both Israelis, at least Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians feel that they have the high ground. Halevi instead looks for the common ground. He suggests that

    (p. 123).

    I have great sympathy for Israel, but when I read about the politics of Israel and Palestine –

    or

    , I end up flipping back and forth between Israel and the Palestinians. There are no devils and heroes here, just men and women making poor decisions in the name of righteousness (and good decisions, too).

    (p. 186)

    It's hard to read these books (and Muslim writers, too) without wanting to sit both parties across the table from each other, to engage in some family therapy and get past the mess both sides are enmeshed in. Both sides have valid points that get lost in their arguments.

    Halevi wants to have this story heard and is offering

    in Arabic translation for free downloading. I hope it is downloaded and read thousands of times. I hope that both Arabs and Jews listen to his words and take them seriously.

  • Cindy H.

    I found this book eloquent, genuine and very easy to comprehend. Mr. HaLevi is upfront with his readers, staring he is representing his Jewish point of view but he wishes to engage in a real dialogue. I read the new paperback edition that includes several responses from Palestinian readers and other Arab neighbors, so I was able to “hear” from both “sides”. I applaud the initiative Yossi Klein HaLevi undertakes and I respect what all voices have to say. For me, this book was somewhat dishearteni

    I found this book eloquent, genuine and very easy to comprehend. Mr. HaLevi is upfront with his readers, staring he is representing his Jewish point of view but he wishes to engage in a real dialogue. I read the new paperback edition that includes several responses from Palestinian readers and other Arab neighbors, so I was able to “hear” from both “sides”. I applaud the initiative Yossi Klein HaLevi undertakes and I respect what all voices have to say. For me, this book was somewhat disheartening because it seems peace is going to be very hard to reach as both Jews and Palestinians are so fundamentally committed to their own narratives that it would be impossible to set aside their beliefs. Yes, there are many paths to compromise and yes both parties would need to relinquish land but I’m not sure either people are willing to disavow their “claims” on “history.”

  • Claire

    After hearing an interview with the author, I got the book. The interview was better than the book.

    One strength of the book was insight in some moments of what it feels like to be a Jew, what 2000 years of longing for return to "Zion" mean to at least one man. One weakness is the residual of rationalization and self justification that intrudes, more early on than later.

    (Disclaimer: I am neither Jewish nor Palestinian)

    In the early chapters there were moments of

    After hearing an interview with the author, I got the book. The interview was better than the book.

    One strength of the book was insight in some moments of what it feels like to be a Jew, what 2000 years of longing for return to "Zion" mean to at least one man. One weakness is the residual of rationalization and self justification that intrudes, more early on than later.

    (Disclaimer: I am neither Jewish nor Palestinian)

    In the early chapters there were moments of acknowledging Palestinian pain. I found these more token than convincing (though I plan to read the prior book about traveling and listening to Palestinians--

    --ETA title). I could not imagine a Palestinian reading them and saying, "Yes, he gets it."However, later his discussion of the Arab Israelis is more nuanced.

    In claiming that both sides need to compromise, Halevi makes what I see as a false equivalence. A two state solution would be a compromise for the Palestinian because they want it all; it would be a compromise for the Israelis because they also want it all. However, I see quite a difference between having longed for it all for 2000 years against having actually lived in it recently. The Israeli compromise involves giving up a dream; the Palestinian compromise involves giving up what was once, recently, a reality.

    It got me thinking about the right of return. How long does that last? Is it the same for the diaspora Jew who wants to return after 2000 years as for the Palestinian who wants to return to the house they built? For that matter how does it apply to Native Americans forced off their lands and into reservations? On the subject of Native Americans, I began to feel their link with the land as I read Halevi's attachment to Zion, the geographical space.

    The ending chapters were more satisfactory than the earlier ones. Halevi explains the complexity that is current Israel with returning peoples who have developed such varied approaches to being. He also honestly explores ranking among the various returnees and seeks resolution. As I read his struggle to see what mattered against what might not, I had thoughts of Ecumenism in the Protestant denominations. That image continued as I read the chapter on the different origin narratives of Jew and Arab. Could their expression possibly ever be the yin and yang of one identity as people of the book?

  • Dee

    I gave up on this book about halfway through - I thought the author was patronizing and self-serving. Although he claims to want a "dialogue" with his Palestinian neighbors, what he really wants is to preach at them as to why he (Jewish people) deserve to live in the entire land of Israel (while maybe making some minuscule "accommodation" to the Palestinians who have been live there for several millennia. He tries to justify the Jewish connection to the land, while ignoring the Palestinian's equ

    I gave up on this book about halfway through - I thought the author was patronizing and self-serving. Although he claims to want a "dialogue" with his Palestinian neighbors, what he really wants is to preach at them as to why he (Jewish people) deserve to live in the entire land of Israel (while maybe making some minuscule "accommodation" to the Palestinians who have been live there for several millennia. He tries to justify the Jewish connection to the land, while ignoring the Palestinian's equally strong connection and all of his "history" is told from the Jewish perspective (not surprising as it is the "winners" who write history!) The more I read, the angrier I got - I've lived in Palestine as a human rights observer and he barely mentions the indignities that I witnessed on a daily basis. Had he written this book as a "point/counterpoint" with a Palestinian perspective added to his, I might have been able to read it - but as it stands, no thank you!!

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