Dear Yossi,

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

From someone who comes from Arab and Islamic origins you’d expect my mind to be filled with pre-judgmental ideas as a result of the education I was brought up on when I was a child and a youngster. Therefore, forgive me if I seem a bit radical.

While reading your book I sensed that I was gradually getting rid of the fear that was deeply engraved in my mind. I found myself reading your words and smiling to myself.

After reading the first letter I told myself: “keep reading the book till the end and see what this sneaky writer has to say”.

We have this phrase in Arabic “to eat a book” which means reading with passion, and I seriously felt that I was devouring your letters and 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 understandings of so many aspects. 

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 raised a lot of questions in my mind. 

Each side has a history and a narrative in this conflict and the world’s history has been filled with blood and wars since Adam and his two sons, Cain and Abel, until this very day. Each and every one of us believes that his narrative is the absolute truth. 

Yossi, you present your narrative eloquently without prejudice against the other side while showing understanding towards their anger when they talk about their narrative. This approach scored you some points, Yossi. 

I started challenging my own thought and asked myself “what about perspectives? Are they changeable?” and the answer that is based on your book is “yes, they are”, or to follow your own words, perspectives can be changed if these two elements exist: curiosity and sympathy, so I would like to thank you for provoking my curiosity. This curiosity pushed me to read more in order to satisfy it and I embarked on a journey of probing deep into Jewish history and learning more about what Jews went through. 

The irony is 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” that presents the rescue mission of the Ethiopian Jews on their way through the Sudan to Israel; I was moved by it so much that when they reached the Ben Gurion Airport I was in tears.

This was when I realized how you felt when you wrote about your own immigration to Israel and I wish I could have been there with you at that moment, even though I’m not Jewish.

I would like to thank you again, my dear, successful writer, for helping me take this load, this burden, off my chest; this burden that has occupied my mind for over half a century. At the same time, this new revelation made me feel helpless in contributing to solving this conflict. But your book inspired me to come up with this idea:

Why aren’t you thinking of creating a film based on your book and your experiences, especially since this book carries an important message of peace and reconciliation, not to mention that it has 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 and I play one of the main roles in a Swedish film that’s called “Vernissage hos Gud” / Vernissage with God, which has not been released yet. I have also been working on a play that talks about a 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, now I can serve as an eye that can view this conflict from a neutral perspective. We, Arabs and Jews, are capable of stopping this bloodshed that has been going on for 70 years and I truly believe that artists and intellectuals can contribute a lot in this. 

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

 

Wishing you good luck and hoping we stay in touch,

 

Ayad Hwady from Iraq