Dear Yossi,

I have finished reading the first letter The Wall between Us and I must admit that in the beginning I couldn’t understand what you meant when you used the term “wall”. 

I thought that you were referring to the wall that you have built for your country’s security, but later on, as I continued reading, I understood that you did not only refer to that physical barrier but also to the wall that surrounds the hearts; or, as I see it, the wall that Arabs had built around their hearts and prevents them from accepting others or even listening to them.

My words may appear strange to you; a young Muslim Arab woman from Iraq who speaks differently.

But I want you to know that I completely understand what you meant when you spoke about Arab and Palestinian rejectionism towards you.

I would like to share with you, from my own personal experience, the Arab mindset.

I realized, as an Arab, that those who live in the Middle East do understand the significance of their region. However, they are willing to sell their land for peanuts. I know, you are probably thinking that I am contradicting myself so let me explain to you exactly what I mean.

Before I started reading your book I was thinking thoroughly about my people and why they were acting the way they did. I believe that we, Arabs, have wonderful traditions and beliefs, but to what extent are we committed to them? Unfortunately, not that many of us are all that committed.

I say this with deep sadness. One of the beliefs I am referring to is hospitality and acceptance, but we barely accept each other as Arabs who share the same language and to the most part the same religion, so how can we accept others from different religions living among us?!

The world in general and the Arab world in specific is in a constant state of internal conflict. We have these inner conflicts within ourselves as well.

Mercy is absent in the Arab world, love is not there. This piece of land we live on is not appreciated and our religion not well understood by us.

Do you know why we cannot live in peace and compromise in order to solve the conflict, Yossi?  Because we don’t understand what our religion wants us to be or what God demands of us.

I want you to know that I understand the message that you are attempting to deliver, Yossi. I know that you want us to understand how much you belong to this land and how deeply rooted you are here.

Finally, I was moved by the way you addressed us directly and basically pleaded with us to accept you by saying: look at me, recognize me, I also have a story to tell.

I was also moved by what you discussed and explained to us regarding Arab unacceptance of Jews because it reminded me of the inner conflict in the Middle East and how it is not only the Jews who are rejected, but also Arabs who live among us but dare to think outside the box or call for peace. 

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Dear Yossi,

I have just finished reading the second letter Need and Longing.

I’ll be honest with you; I was in so much emotional pain when I finished reading it. I felt the pain that the Jews went through while they were doing all they could to return to their homeland. I really don’t know how to describe what I felt but I can relate to your description of how this land was present in your prayers and hearts throughout history. I can understand this very well because we can never be certain whether prayers will be fulfilled, and such uncertainty causes people either disappointment or relief. So how did your people manage to maintain strength while they were constantly preoccupied, struggling between hope and fear?!

I was incredibly moved by the fact that you prayed to God on those rainy days that you should return to your homeland.

I really don’t know that much about politics. However, I want to know how your people managed to overcome, stand back on their feet and eventually return to their homeland after everything they had gone through.

I was reading your letters through an emotional and spiritual lens. You mentioned something in this letter that captured my attention and I kept asking myself: Why did God “replace” Judaism and Christianity with Islam? I will share my thoughts with you on this matter shortly as I continue reading the book and issuing my responses.

The way you described the strong determination of the Jewish people to return to their homeland similarly moved me. One of the most beautiful aspects that so deeply touched me in your book was the Jewish power of love. I personally felt this love when I got to know my Jewish friends online and I have wondered about the pervasiveness of love you carry in your hearts; this love that has enabled you to move forward and persist for the sake of returning to your homeland.

You endured persecution and oppression and persisted no matter what others would say about you; you just moved forward. I feel that the more you were oppressed, the more you felt that deep longing for your homeland.

I believe that the secret behind your strength is the love that you carry in your heart for the Land of Israel.

I believe that God is watching you with great satisfaction because you never stopped longing to return to the land of Israel. God saw this and executed justice by allowing you to return after so many years in exile.

I am thrilled by the way that you presented your people’s story, Yossi. I am sure that any reader who reads your book will feel the pain and sorrow that your people felt and likewise be impressed by your strong determination to return to this land. Each and every single word you wrote reverberated strongly with me.

Do you know why I spoke in the beginning about the pain I myself felt?

Because I have personally experienced such pain; the pain of hiding yourself and your identity whilst longing to get back to your home where you can be who you are without fear. The pain of your desire to feel alive! The pain of lacking warmth in those cold nights while you are looking for shelter; shelter that is to be found so far away –

in your homeland – the only place where one finds that warmth.

Yossi, you wrote these letters in order to relay to us the story and reality of the Land of Israel, how Jews feel and how they act. You are telling a story that nobody could understand except the ones who went through what your people went through.

My wish is that this land remains yours.

My wish is that your people find love, because you deserve love; there is no doubt about that.

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Dear Yossi,

I have finished reading the third letter, Fate and destiny, and I am wondering now what I should write to you and how to express my shock. Is this really your fate, as described in this letter?

I started reading a few lines from this letter and told myself: this is the definition of Judaism, this is really interesting!

When you started explaining about the relationship between Jews and God and how it went through ups and downs, I literally burst into tears. I felt the pain and knew exactly what you were talking about. I continued reading and recalled some personal memories.

When I think about my life, I realize that I, a Muslim girl, was raised to be Jewish on account of the fact  Islam and Judaism share so many similarities; we have so many things in common. I cannot say, of course, that they are 100% the same. Yet, we have so much in common. This is why I was shocked when I learned about Judaism.

According to my mother, my grandfather, whose name I cannot mention for obvious reasons, used to read a lot from the Torah and was highly interested in learning about Judaism. He used to teach my mother about Judaism in a manner that I would love to share with you:

He used to tell her: “Islam brought traditions and commitments that are based on Judaism; Judaism is the basis of Islam”. He also used to tell her something that is causing my heart to race whilst writing: there is a deep spiritual connection between the commitments of Islam and the basis of Islam, which is Judaism.

I believe that if we, Muslims, could just see and acknowledge this connection between Judaism and Islam, peace will prevail between our two religions.

I feel lucky and blessed to be brought up in a family that taught me to consider Jews as my cousins in blood. I really feel this connection in my heart and soul.

I used to ask so many questions about life and how we can understand it. My mother used to respond by saying: “Only Judaism has the answers to your questions”.

When I read your book and made the connection between what you wrote and my own outlook on life, I was astonished because I finally found the answers to my questions.

So, thank you so much, Yossi, for writing these letters that enabled me to understand so many things.

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Dear Yossi,

I have finished reading the fourth letter Narrative and Presence and I was thrilled by the manner in which you explained the history and the religious background of each and every event; how you based your words on religious and historical facts.

I love history. I like probing deep and learning more about Jews and Muslims,  because I am Muslim and I do not know enough about your religion to be able to discuss and debate with you the issues your book raises.

This letter, like the previous ones, moved me spiritually and brought some comfort to my heart in a way I don’t even know how to explain.

Is it because I am finally reading about the people whom I have long wanted to get to know better? Or is it because I am emotionally touched by the way you write and present your story to your Palestinian and Arab neighbours? Or maybe it is because I am reading about the great success that your people have achieved? Or perhaps it is because I am reading the truth about so many topics that used to be surrounded by lies?

Why can’t we live in peace? Why can’t we just realize that the diversity of human beings is a necessity in life?

I keep asking myself: as a young Muslim Arab woman, why did my own society reject me? I really can’t understand this.

Arabs cannot accept Jews because they are different; they have a different language and a different religion. They persecuted them just because they wanted to erase anything that was different. They simply like and accept what is similar to them. They also reject Arabs and Muslims who oppose them.

I believe that the problem is not in the Jews being different. The problem is in the Arab mindset that doesn’t have any clear or reasonable concepts; Many Muslims claim that they adhere to what God requests of them in the Quran, but they don’t really follow what God says. The Quran speaks of the importance of variation within humanity and religion and stresses the importance of treating other believers in one God with equality and justice.

And if, according to Muslims, God promised them this land, then why did He give it to the Jews? If the Muslim faith is connected to this land, if Muslims really were connected to this land, they would never have allowed so much bloodshed that ruins it!

What I am trying to describe, Yossi, is the blind way that Arabs and Muslims follow their faith. They are not asking themselves what Islam requests of them to follow. They can’t open their minds and look for ways to end this conflict because they want everything; it’s either all or nothing. The greediness and hatred fill their hearts. They hate those who oppose them, and this is what made them oppressors.

They have not only oppressed Jews. They have oppressed their own innocent children, ruining their souls by filling them with hatred to the point that they cannot see beyond hostility, causing them to kill one another in the name of God.

The Palestinian suffering was a result of the Arabs’ mindset. The Palestinians suffered because of the Arab ego and the endless Arab greediness. Arabs think they own everything, that they can give or take whatever they want. They think that God allowed them to do this. They simply act the way they want with no moral basis to moderate their behavior. They ignite the fire of hatred and hostility and then claim that others ignited it!

Finally, I just want to say that I am impressed by the way you end each letter. These endings touch my heart. They make me cry and smile at the same time. They express things I have always wanted to hear. They describe the exact feelings that I myself could never express about these topics, reviving the spirit that I had lost somewhere and could no longer find.Yossi, you write the words that I have yearned to read and hear for years! And you talk about what I have always wanted to say but couldn’t.

In the fourth letter when you, Yossi, mentioned the “AThan” (the call to prayer) and how it awakens the spirit and reminds us to pray, you awakened MY spirit by stressing the greatness of God as recited in our “Allahu akbar”. You triggered my thoughts and made me wonder: isn’t God greater than our worries and conflicts? Yes, he sure is greater than that.

You strengthened my faith in God’s greatness again, and when you mentioned how close our two peoples are to each other that we could almost hear each other’s breath, I wept.

I really want to shout out loud and make everybody hear those words but I prefer to stay silent rather than end up dead for speaking out. Yet, this silence causes the death of the soul and heart.

Life hasn’t been easy: it wasn’t good for any of us. We’ve all suffered, we’ve all lost and we’ve all experienced death of the heart and soul, so why does nobody find the courage to compromise and say loud and clear “let’s listen to each other and start finding a way to end all of these conflicts ?!”

You, Mr. Yossi, did it! And you encouraged me to say it to people around me, both by defending the legitimacy of Israel’s existence and by fighting and coping with life’s battles.

At the end of the third letter, I was moved when you spoke of the legitimacy of Jews on this land, and I want to tell you that Judaism is the religion that is implicitly mentioned in the Quran most often. Likewise, B’nai Israel, the Jewish people, are mentioned explicitly. 

To be honest with you, when I was a child and read the Quran and learned about it, I used to ask myself: if the Quran is the holy book of Muslims, why are the Israelites mentioned in it so often?

I was wondering why Prophet Musa was mentioned in more than several chapters while Prophet Muhammed was mentioned only once.

I felt jealous and told myself: the Quran is supposed to revolve around Muslims rather than Jews so why mention them so often?

If God wanted to teach us a lesson on how to behave, he could have just mentioned the Jews’ wrongdoings and told us not to follow those actions: he could have focused on what was the right thing to do.

But when I learned that the Jews were God’s chosen people and that He loved them and preferred them over all other nations, I would ask myself why God loves them that much.

This question had been on my mind for a long while until I got to know some Jewish friends and noticed something that I have already mentioned before: the enormous LOVE they carry in their hearts. I observed that, as my mother used to tell me, Jews are hardworking, people of principle and faith, who believe firmly in their religion and its teachings to which they are dedicated.

My mother used to say that God loves those who closely adhere to his commandments and hold firmly in their faith. I am not lying when I say that I have always wanted to be able do the same and dedicate myself to God like the Jews do.

At the end of the second letter when you, Yossi, mentioned that returning to the land of Israel was made possible and eventually came true, I could truly feel your faith; faith such as this is something that our bodies and souls desperately need. We must have faith. If we believe that something can come true it eventually will, even if it takes years. We must fight and struggle in order to make things materialize.

I find Islam to be a direct continuation of Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism, all the prophets fought and struggled to spread the divine message, teaching us that when one wants to achieve something he or she must fight for it.