This is Yossi’s reply to Qasem Y. Awad from Palestine. To read Qasem’s full response check this link 


Dear Qasem,

Thank you for your letter. As difficult as it was for me to read, I am grateful to you for taking the time to respond. I invited Palestinians to respond and you did. I can’t ask for more than that.

I am deeply sorry for your losses. May God bring your family comfort.  

Given that you have read only the first letter, I will keep my response brief. I will not debate with you about the points you raise. I will say only this: So long as people on my side and people on your side tell each other that we know “the truth” about the other side’s story better than it knows its own story, nothing will change between us. When I read about your denial of my historical roots here; when I read how you selectively choose those Israelis whom to quote while ignoring the overwhelming counter opinion of almost all Israeli historians and archaeologists; when I read about your strong hint that Zionists were somehow involved in the Holocaust – I feel an overwhelming sadness and exhaustion. Where to begin?

The denial of my story reminds me of those right-wing Israelis who deny your story, who claim you are an invented people, that your ancestors didn’t live here but moved here from neighboring Arab countries over the last hundred years, etc etc. That is how your denial of my story sounds to me.

If we are serious about moving forward and figuring out how to solve this conflict, I believe that each side will need to listen to the story of the other. I am not trying to deny your story, only tell you mine.

When you write that I am no different from an extreme right winger, I need to ask you: Will you let me define myself? Or do you know me better than I know myself?

I don’t know whether you know this, but in the latest English edition of the book I include a new epilogue, with 50 pages of Palestinian responses. I made the decision to honor those Palestinians who wrote to me by giving them the last word in my book. Is that the act of someone who wants to erase your story?

I hope you will continue reading my letters and responding. I will continue responding in turn.

With the hope of continuing our exchange –



Yossi’s second reply to Qasem: 


Dear Qasem,

Thank you for continuing this dialogue. I know it isn’t easy for you and so I am especially grateful for your willingness to continue to read my book and engage with me, despite the pain.

I readily acknowledge your people’s suffering and know that your people’s lives would be very different if my people hadn’t come home – the home we share. You and I have very different historical interpretations of what happened and why in 1948. I write about it extensively in my book and so I won’t recount that discussion now. Suffice to say that I believe that Israel needs to acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinians and try to make the future different from the past. That is why I support a Palestinian state which will be able to absorb the descendants of refugees from 1948. Israel will need to pay reparations to Palestinians who lost their homes in 1948—just as Arab countries will need to compensate the descendants of Jews who fled or were expelled from the Arab world after living in those countries for centuries, even millennia.

One point I tried to make in my book is that Israel doesn’t exist because of the Holocaust, but because of a connection between the Jewish people and this land that goes back thousands of years. The Jews of Israel are probably the only people in the Middle East who observe the same religious rituals as their ancestors did four thousand years ago. That is a very powerful link that we have in this land.

The Holocaust certainly intensified the efforts of Jews to achieve a state, but those efforts would have happened whether or not the Holocaust happened. I believe we need to separate the question of Jewish suffering in Europe from what happens in the Middle East. The Holocaust isn’t my “ticket” to statehood.

I wish you well and I pray for peace and justice between our peoples.

With blessings,