Dear Yossi,

I would love to share with you my honest opinion regarding your letters to your dear neighbor.

From someone with Arab and Islamic origins you might very well expect my mind to be filled with all sorts of pre-judgments, courtesy of the education upon which I was raised. Forgive me if I seem somewhat radical.

In reading your book, I sensed that I was gradually shedding the fear I had been carrying deep in my mind. I found myself smiling whilst reading your words.

After reading the first letter I told myself: “let’s keep reading the book until the end in order to see what this sneaky writer has to say”.

There is an Arabic phrase, “to eat a book”, which refers to the act of reading with passion and I seriously felt that I was devouring your letters. In fact, I would have finished them in one night had I not had other commitments. So, from this moment on, I would like to address you as “my friend”.

My dear friend, you have challenged me to re-evaluate many of my concepts and understanding on so many matters. 

In your first letter you wrote: “Sometimes, in political arguments with Palestinians, I would be told: Why are we arguing about who owns the land, when in the end the land will own us both?” Such a statement evoked many questions within me. 

Each side of the conflict possesses a competing history and narrative. Indeed, human history has been littered with blood and war since Adam and his two sons, Cain and Abel, until this very day. Each and every one of us believes his narrative to be the absolute truth. 

Yossi, you present your narrative eloquently and without prejudice against the other side. You  convey understanding when they express their anger whilst outlining their narrative. Such an approach scored you some points, Yossi. 

I started to challenge my own beliefs, asking myself: “what about perspectives? Are they changeable?”.  The answer your book gives is “yes, they are”. Perspectives, you say, can be changed if these two emotional responses are evoked; curiosity and sympathy. I would like to thank you for piquing my curiosity, pushing me to read more and more, enabling me to embark on a journey in which I probed deep into Jewish history and learned what Jews have been through. 

It is perhaps ironic that I ended up reading about what my Babylonian ancestors did to the Jews and how they persecuted them!

I also read Theodor Hertzl’s writings, “A Jewish State” and watched the movie “The Red Sea Diving Resort” which re-enacts the rescue mission of Ethiopian Jewry as the refugees made their way through Sudan to Israel; I was moved that by the time I got to the scene in which they reached Ben Gurion Airport, I was in tears.

It was at this point that I could comprehend how you yourself must have felt when writing about your own immigration to Israel and I wish I could have been there with you at that moment.

I would like to thank you again, my dear, successful writer, for helping me take this load – this burden – off my chest. It has burdened me for over half a century. However, at the same time, this new revelation has caused me to feel helpless in solving this conflict. Your book did, nonetheless, inspire me to consider another approach; Why not consider producing a film based on your book and your experiences? This book not only carries an important message of peace and reconciliation, but also all the components of a successful film. I would love to be the director. 

As I told your staff in one of our conversations, I am an actor and a director. I play one of the main roles in a Swedish film yet to be released by the name of “Vernissage hos Gud” (Vernissage with God). I have also been working on a play that explores the friendship between an Iraqi Jew and an Iraqi Muslim who met each other by chance in Sweden. I named this play “Yusaleem”, a combination of the words Yahoudi (Jewish) and Muslim. 

Last but not least, I could serve as a watchful eye that can keep check that the conflict is fairly presented. We, Arabs and Jews, are capable of stopping the bloodshed that has been ongoing for 70 years. I truly believe that artists and intellectuals can contribute a lot to this endeavor.  

We are the ones who must get to work on this. We shouldn’t let those who have been gambling with our blood, from both sides, control our lives. 

Wishing you good luck and hoping we stay in touch,


Ayad Hwady from Iraq



Here is a link to Yossi’s reply to Ayad.


Ayad’s second response to Yossi:


Dear Yossi

I think that one of the most interesting consequences of the publication of your book (Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor) is precisely what is going on now; an exchange of thoughts and ideas, the formation of new friendships and the overcoming of inherited taboos.

You deserve rewards for this humane work that has given me the opportunity to read your book and thus made our friendship possible. You are forging a new reality that breaks those who support endless wars whilst on the other hand encourages all those whose hearts and minds are dedicated to peace. I believe that your letters will one day be likened to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon; as you know, he was quoted back then saying: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

You asked me to tell you a little bit about myself:

I was born in a small city called Nasiriyah in Iraq, which was the city of Ur in the time of the Sumerians, and what historians refer to as “the cradle of civilization”.

I was born to a very poor family. I used to sell hummus and fool on the streets after school, but I was a big dreamer.

I moved to Baghdad and there I started theater studies when the war between Iraq and Iran broke out and I was forced to flee the country. Some might consider me a coward, others a lover of life; feel free to perceive me any way you so wish.

I lived in Sweden for a while before moving to Russia to finish my graduate studies in theater where I would then complete my doctorate degree. I returned to Sweden and have been living there ever since.

I participated and directed many plays, movies and TV shows. I managed to visit Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, but I could not go back to live there for obvious reasons. I still travel and visit Iraq from time to time in order to see my family and friends as well as make some TV shows.

I am a dreamer and I have many dreams, much like everybody else. My hope is to fulfil them before I die.

I have been married twice and have been blessed to have a son and a daughter.

This is, in brief, who I am.

With my love and respect,

Your friend and brother in humanity,


Ayad Hwady