January 4th, 2020


Dear Mr. Yossi Klein Halevi,

I send you my warmest greetings.

At the very outset of my letter, I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratefulness for the bravery and mental effort it must have taken you to write each and every line of your letters. Your work is not only valuable in the content it seeks to impart, but also by virtue of the accuracy and honesty of its writing. In times such as these, we’re all the more in need of your words. Our region is currently undergoing a crucial phase which obligates us to step forward, forgive each other’s past mistakes and build trust. Your work enlightens us, shedding light on the complexities of both of the worlds to which we separately belong. Through your letters, I’ve had the chance to become acquainted with your point of view, which you explain so politely. I feel as though I have embarked on a literary journey in which I have travelled through time and space, being exposed to the many aspects of Israeli society you so eloquently convey; above all, its fears.

As a young person, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only initially caught my attention when the Second Intifada erupted. The news of the victims of both sides – replete with heart-breaking pictures – were circulated everywhere during these times. I could never understand what exactly each side was fighting to achieve; all possible motives struck me as meaningless or unsubstantiated. Throughout the years, I not only sought to avoid taking a position on such matters, but rather refused to try and understand what was going on in the first place. These events never meant anything to me. I only hoped to never see those heart-breaking pictures again. 

But somehow, fate plays its part, and my view of the conflict was to change substantially at the hands of coincidence. One morning, I arrived in a city in the south-east of my country and, desperately tired, headed straight to the hotel. Whilst waiting in the foyer for my room to be prepared, I noticed a small group of people holding very small books in their hands and reverently reciting hymns that broke the cold silence and gave the environment a kind of religious awe I’d never felt before. Curiosity drew me closer to them, but I nonetheless continued to watch and listen to their prayers at a distance for fear of interrupting, as I tried to figure out what their movements meant. I waited until they finished and only then did I ask one of the participants to explain to me what they had been doing. We sat down and spoke for over an hour. I was incredibly tired from the many hours of travel I had undergone that day, but all the exhaustion vanished as our discussion went deeper. He was so incredibly nice and responded to all my questions. So intensely interested I was in what he had to say, I forgot to ask him for his name.

It transpired that they were a group of Moroccan Jews who had come to visit a Rabbi’s shrine in Erfoud; the shrine of Shmuel Abu-Hatzeira, whose offspring extends to one of the most respected and religious Rabbis in Israel named Baba Sali. The man provided me with a great amount of information, causing me some embarrassment and shame for such a lack of knowledge on my part. I thus decided to become more open to learning about Judaism, not least because of its significant cultural influence on Morocco. 

Learning about Judaism took me on an adventure into new and endless worlds which would deeply touch me. The more I immersed myself in them, the more curious I became. I got to learn about Halakha (Jewish law), views on how to organize society, some inherited traditions, stories of Rabbis and a great many more details that brought me to the conclusion that we’re more alike than I had previously thought. God’s mercy is great and we shouldn’t fight one another over it; He has enough mercy for all. 

Upon visiting the Jewish Museum in Casablanca – the only one of its kind in the Arab world, by the way – I spoke with some of the Moroccan Jewish representatives there. I was astonished by my own ignorance of so many things, making me all the more determined to continue learning. 

After such encounters, I felt a moral responsibility to pay attention to the affairs of the Middle East, even if I’m geographically distant to them and even if, or perhaps because, I want to never again see those horrifying pictures I was exposed to at the age of eight. The first requirement for a believer in peace is good faith; faith that allows him to reach across the aisle and get to know the other side without undue prejudice, leaving behind meaningless and hostile verbal abuse. Strengthening mutual bonds of trust is required if we hope to succeed on a journey to peace; bonds that can only be built after we have first developed the most basic positive human traits such as mutual respect and mutual interest.


My dear respectable Yossi,

I write to you from the western shores of the Mediterranean, where the waves lap onto the terrain that has witnessed one of the deepest, richest phases of human history and where they continue to impart lessons for life, even today. I write to you from the Land of the Maghreb (Morocco), the country that boasted the largest Jewish population in all of the Middle East and North Africa, and was always a good model for peace and coexistence. Conflict has been brief and primarily characterized by tribal disputes which were once not uncommon. What I mean to say here, is that, with the exception of short intermittent periods such as during the rule of Sultan Moulay el-Yazid, Jews were never politically targeted for repression or extermination. On the contrary, Morocco provided them with a comfortable environment to practice their religion and ensure its endurance. 

To understand the Jews’ impact on our culture, one must look deep into our heritage which itself was borne through a blend of different cultural and religious influences. We, Moroccans, have always known how to conserve our Islamic identity (since Islam is the religion which the vast majority of Moroccans follow) but that never prevented us from being rational and realistic when dealing with other cultures and minorities. 

Proof and the efficacy of coexistence lies in the details of our daily lives; everything from music to food reveals the 3000 year old blend and mutual toleration of different cultures, from Islam, Arabism and Judaism, to the Amazigh and Hassaniya. We are likewise very open towards Spanish and French influences. Our history also attests to some tensions in our relationships with both of these countries. Morocco’s fate is to be a land of the free, its geographically strategic position rendering it a bridge between different cultures. Moroccan society has successfully benefited from all its constituent cultural components including those propagated by its minorities, and this has allowed us to become a peaceful nation in the wholesome pursuit of advancement and wellbeing. Morocco’s Jews enjoyed their rights as equal citizens and in return led their lives as actively involved citizens in Moroccan society, positively contributing to it.

Reading your letters as a Moroccan who is astutely aware of the multicultural nature of his country (we have even codified our respect for different cultures in our constitution), I was confused when I came to your description of the situation in your land and it struck me as strange and complex. When some of the darkest powers of history were writing the most tragic chapter of the Jewish story in carrying out the Holocaust, King Mohamed V stood boldly against the colonizing authorities in his refusal to hand over his Jews, and in fact granted them his personal protection. The Holocaust’s perpetrators have fallen but the King’s brave and noble decision to protect his citizens is preserved in history and will never be forgotten.

I was likewise surprised when I learned of the immense respect Moroccan-Israelis have for King Hassan II; they even have his picture on a postage stamp and have named streets after him in Kiryat Ekron and Petah Tikvah. He was the same king whose funeral Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat all attended. He always hoped to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and it was he who paved the way for the first agreement between Israel and Egypt.

It is because of your letters that I finally reached a balanced understanding of both sides’ stories and could piece together an accurate image of the affairs and thus amend my blurry and scattered impressions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It seems to me that we are at a unique and unprecedented juncture in history, in which one side of the conflict, to their disbelief, lost the war many years ago, while the other side fears turning its victory into a permanent administrative rule which, in the long run, will be immensely costly; perpetuating the conflict would be nothing short of national suicide.  

The defeated party’s psyche is the hardest obstacle to overcome on the way to any solution, for it causes those who feel defeated to deny reality and merely encourages them to make excuses for their shortcomings and never actually allows them to find a pragmatic solution. I believe that one cause of that mentality might be attributed to the illegitimacy of the current Palestinian leadership which is widely perceived as obsolete and useless. Indeed, they have kept the conflict alive under their governance so as to only preserve their political power. 

Democracy could be a long-term solution for eventually resolving the conflict, yet it relies on Palestinian readiness to commit to it as a form of governance and the required political will to put this eons-long mess to an end. I expect heavy resistance to this idea from the generation of Palestinians that have received nothing but death sentences, having been sent to war in the belief that salvation can be found only in death. It hasn’t occurred to those carrying out their crimes that those who sent them don’t actually care about their lives but rather merely exploit them as a means of prolonging their power.

On the other hand, I think that making peace is also hard for the winning side. They subconsciously believe that solutions can only be found through violence. Very few believe in the viability of political diplomacy as a means of problem-solving and the result is the descent of the clouds of fear and mistrust over all those involved.


Dear sir,

To paraphrase and repurpose Menachem Begin’s famous remark about the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt; digesting your words will take more time and effort than your forefathers took to build the pyramids. 

The first, small group of founders who established the State of Israel sought to fulfil the religious prophecy of return, while the generation which followed worked hard to further such dreams by turning a desert into an oasis of prosperity of impressive innovation in so many domains. It is now the fate of the current generation to pave the way for peace and bring coexistence to this land. I also believe that in order to reach a solution both sides must understand and accept the other’s point of view. 

A country’s political options should revolve around one thing and one thing alone: geography. It is imperative to promote establishing a zone of economic integration that will help the Palestinians realize the alternatives available to them. This would leave open alternative paths for them to pursue, for their current path has thus far proven to bring about catastrophic failure. Indeed, economic advancement can be a great start to achieving a solution. As the saying goes; if merchandise can’t cross a border – soldiers will. Economic improvement will allow relationships to blossom between the two sides through the creation of mutual trust. It will surely make both Israel and Palestine aware of the fact that they have to be pragmatic and act peacefully toward one another in order to step up to the plate to confront upcoming challenges.

Thank you once again for those valuable letters. I wish from the bottom of my heart to meet you online and discuss these matters with you.


Ayoub from Morocco