Last week we had a great book discussion at PCS about the book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, by Yossi Klein Halevi. It is not only a thoughtful exposition of the Jewish narrative, but also a sincere invitation to Palestinians to engage in dialogue and find a way to a shared future living side by side in two states. Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Together with Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke University, he co-directs the Institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative.
Yossi published his book for free online in Arabic, in order to foster real dialogue. So in preparation for our program, I shared the online book with Imam Nadir Farris, my dialogue partner and cofounder of the Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue of San Antonio which was active in the early 2000's. He is also an engineer and businessman. (You can read about our activities here. ) Nadir wrote me a beautiful letter in return which I shared with everyone at our discussion. He gave me permission to post it here, and I hope that his words will give you hope as they do me. He also asked me to put him in touch with Yossi Klein Halevi, which I will do.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all the good people in our world like Yossi Klein Halevi and Imam Nadir Faris, who work for peace and coexistence on our precious planet Earth. (And be sure to join us for our next Israel program, Nov. 28, 7:30pm, with Adam Finn, about his work for an Israeli Human Rights group.)
Here is Nadir's letter:
Salam / Shalom Dear Friend,
First of all, let me express my condolences to the Jewish community at large for the recent massacre in Philadelphia. My prayers and thoughts are with the families and friends of innocent victims. This senseless incident is a testimony that some people continue to have hate towards others instilled deep in the upbringing just for the fact they are different. I continue to have faith that love and peace will eventually prevail.
I read a few pages from the book you texted me about. My apology that though the subject is interesting, but I have not had enough free time to read the rest. Soon I will though. From the pages I read, I can tell you it was great to know that there are Israeli citizens who think that way, especially in the midst of all hate and extreme wings in charge that continue to agitate hate among the two nations. While reading it, I felt the writer was talking to me. It took me back years while I lived in Palestine and seeing the Israeli soldiers often with all the emotions charged on both sides. Reading the book made me want to travel to Jerusalem to meet the writer and say him I'm a Palestinian Muslim, so let's talk and we will definitely have lots to say. I truly admire such people who are able to go beyond the politics and reach out to "the enemy" and open the heart and the dialog in order to humanize the other side.
Today's politics of the Israeli government is definitely dehumanizing to the Palestinians. They have the upper hand over Palestinians and the ability to reach out and have some peace if they wanted. Had they done that, I'm convinced they would have found acceptance from many or at least some Palestinians. As always, I believe it is the duty of the strong to reach out to the weak and so I blame Netanyahu and team for the continued conflict. Palestinians have their own shortcomings with bad leadership that is marred with corruption and does not represent the population. I know my people and believe if they got good honest leadership and had more peaceful Israel government they will go for peace. My dad always told us the conflict is merely political because he had many Jewish neighbors while growing up in Haifa as a young man and that was normal to coexist together.
In summary, I believe there are still many peace-loving people on this earth. Majority of people want to have good life for themselves and their children, but the problem is that these are not active in politics and left the stage to the minority who have agenda to dominate and take advantage of others. This minority is ruling in most parts of the world and dictating the outcome.
I pray things will get better overall and especially between Israelis and Palestinians so one day you and I can travel to Jerusalem together in celebration where we can go anywhere in the area without check points and seeing many security guards or soldiers. Amen.
Best Regards to you, your family and community.
Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan shares her thoughts (and some original photos) and invites your comments.