Dalia’s first letter to Yossi:

1- I would first like to take the opportunity to thank the person who invited me to read the book and showed interest in hearing my own personal thoughts and criticism on its contents. I want to address the following, however, to Yossi, in the hope that we can engage in an honest, heart-to-heart discussion. 

2-I studied Hebrew History and Literature, Mr Yossi, and have also studied the Torah and have indeed read it in its original language, Hebrew. After years of Hebrew studies, I now have the courage to say that I recognize the Jews’ right to their historical holy land. I also recognize Israel, having learned about your country through my aforementioned studies. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to study the subject matter and gain access to objective facts. Furthermore, by the way, I did not solely rely on the supplied material that accompanied our curriculum, but rather conducted my own research, governed by the principle that facts should not be influenced by emotions. Blind hatred and hostility do not change facts.

3-I noticed that you repeatedly mention the word “occupation” in your first letter (which I have just finished). This seemed strange to me because your State is not an occupation and your people are not occupiers. You are simply living on your land. I do not consider this to be so solely by virtue of your historical rights only, but also based on legal documents from the Ottoman era, which I have studied, and which reveal selling and buying contracts, illustrating the fact that Arabs sold their land to the Jews.

I also know from my own studies that the first Jewish immigrants and pioneers did not harbor any intention to occupy any other people in coming to the land in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It was Arab rejectionism and the subsequent violence in response to the birth of Israel that spawned the conflict.

I maintain that if Israel had not been established, Jews would find themselves in significant danger. Everybody knows that Israel is defending its people and practicing that right like any other state, so I am truly astonished by the guilt to which you confess, Mr Yossi.

4-I know that the term “Palestinians” in its original usage referred to Jews, so I prefer to call all the Arabs on this land the Arabs of Israel. You and I know very well that the Arabs who live on this land are from different origins; some are from the Levant while others hail from Egypt or a number of other places, and what’s more, they know this well. It is true that they lived on this land and I therefore don’t deny their right to live here. The problem, however, is that they deny your right to live here. This is part of the contradiction of this land. Your ancestors lived here and were subsequently exiled whilst the Arabs’ ancestors once lived in other parts of the world before their descendants moved here.

5-It is a great sacrifice on the Jewish people’s part to surrender the West Bank for it is the land in which the ancient Hebrew Jewish State was established. I recall one of the proposals to solve the conflict, referred to as a “bi-national state”, meaning one state for the two peoples. I have given this solution serious thought, but I’m not familiar with its consequences because my field of study was literature, not politics.

6- “Recognize me” – what a strong and touching expression! This phrase summarizes all the struggles and sorrows of the Jewish people in just two words because here lies the core of the problem; the denial of the Jewish people, or “the Jewish case” as we used to call it. I believe that this rejectionism can be attributed to two major factors. The first is religious hatred. Muslims consider Jews to be permanent enemies; a notion cited in several verses in the Holy Quran. The question, of course, stands: how do we deal with these holy texts?

Many an attempt has been made by some Muslim scholars to interpret the verses in a way which brings to the fore the context of the time, stressing the unsuitability of the verses’ strict application in today’s world. In doing so, these scholars hope to convince Muslims not to generalize on Quranic statements, but rather limit the meaning of each verse to the time in which it was written. However, these attempts have failed and the Muslim scholars who have engaged in them have been incited against in all sorts of ways, having been labelled infidels or, in some cases, even assassinated. The inciters claim that the Quranic verses are not time-bound, but are rather relevant in any period of history. Many Arab regimes have exploited this in the most shameful of ways, inciting their people against one another in order to further their own agendas. The tool of incitement may be religious, but the purpose of its application is purely political. Consider, for a moment, the fact that Chinese and Indian Muslims don’t harbor any hatred or hostility towards Jews.

The second reason behind the Arab rejectionism of Jewish presence in the land is ideological. You can find antisemitism among Marxists, atheists and non-believers of Islam; a phenomenon that is attributable to the patriotic and nationalistic sentiments that are similarly stirred by Arab regimes and leaders. These regimes regulate the media, meaning that they control what each and every writer or journalist may write or say, just as they regulate schools, colleges and universities as well.

I deem it pertinent, at this juncture, to let you know that my teachers and lecturers at the university are prohibited from recognizing Israel. And this is despite the fact that Israel is the main subject of their studies. Do you see how absurd this situation is?

7-In my honest opinion, the peace that you hope to achieve will never materialize unless the underlying factors of incitement and hatred are eliminated, in particular, those that stem from the holy texts. You, yourself, had cultivated a friendship with the Sufi Sheikh whom you reference in your work, precisely because he was not hostile and did not hold extremist views.

The other pressing matter that must be rectified is the corrupt Arab dictatorships who exploit ideological extremism by constructing a fake enemy in order to distract their own people from demanding basic rights. The Palestinian Authority and the terrorist movement, Hamas, are particularly adept at this. Arafat rejected every single peace proposal that he was offered and simultaneously left tens of millions of dollars to his wife and daughter who live in France. How can you possibly wish to conduct peace with such corrupt people and organizations, Mr Yossi?

8-Last but not least, I wish to express my deep appreciation for the way in which you wrote your book; its poetic style, high quality and sentimentality. In the book, I also felt the characteristic sadness of the Jewish style, reminiscent of the way the Jewish writer, Haim Hazaz, would write.

I would like to share with you this segment of a poem by Shaul Tchernichovsky (שאול טשרניחובסקי) I read just a few days ago. You reminded me of this, Yossi:

שחקי כי גם ברעות אאמין, אאמין, כי עוד אמצא לב, לב תקוותי גם תקוותיו, יחוש אושר, יבין כאב

Rejoice for I have faith in friendship, I’ll find a heart – in this I have faith – A heart that shares in all my hopes, A heart that feels both joy and pain.

Dalia Aziz from Egypt


Dalia’s second letter to Yossi:

Dear Yossi, 

1- I admire your honesty when you confess that on the day of the fast of the 9th of Av you do not sense real suffering and that the sadness nowadays feels somewhat artificial. 

Similarly, your description of your sense that redemption has not yet been achieved also strikes me as sincere. It seems to me that through such passages, you succeed to convey the deep, true feelings of religious Jews. As for your uncertainty regarding how to unify your people, I actually think that such unification will happen with time, as future generations take up the mantle of this responsibility. It takes a long time to forge a unified society, to create the delicate balance needed in order to hold together the different flavors of a nation.

2- “When the LORD returned the exiles to Zion we were like dreamers, wrote the psalmist”.  What a powerful verse! But was it really the fulfilment of a “dream”? After all, the Jews possessed the power, influence and means to achieve their aspiration of return. I suppose here lies the difference between religious and secular thinking.

3- How did the Jews survive? How did they keep their hope alive? I can answer this by imagining the life of the diaspora in the ghetto: although the ghetto separated the Jews from the societies in which they lived, it also enabled them to preserve their religion and identity. It was, if you will, a double-edged sword.

4- I realise that the concept of the Messiah is among the most controversial issues within Judaism and Jewish thinking. Nonetheless, there are both religious and non-religious movements that consider the Zionist movement to be the Savior, even if this savior does not necessarily come in the form of a human being, but rather as a Jewish nationalistic idea and movement.

5- I also found myself particularly impressed by the repeated emphasis on ​​the Jewish attachment to the Land of Zion in Jewish prayer and religious ritual, for this emphasis roundly refutes any accusation of ​​occupation or colonization and indeed illustrates the deep spiritual connection to the land.

6- You defend Zionism as a national movement rather than a colonialist one and I agree with you, but you describe it in romantic terms. Zionism did indeed start as a “romantic” idea before it became a nationalist movement. However, this is not the underlying factor for the failure of Jews to assimilate in the societies in which they lived. I consider the failure of the Haskala* movement  השכלה (the European Jewish Enlightenment) to have been the principle drive behind the Zionist movement .


 Dalia Aziz from Egypt

*note about the Jewish Haskalah movement from


The Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, was an intellectual movement in Europe that lasted from approximately the 1770s to the 1880s. 

The Haskalah was inspired by the European Enlightenment but had a Jewish character. Literally, Haskalah comes from the Hebrew word sekhel, meaning “reason” or intellect” and the movement was based on rationality. It encouraged Jews to study secular subjects, to learn both the European and Hebrew languages, and to enter fields such as agriculture, crafts, the arts and science. The maskilim (followers of the Haskalah) tried to assimilate into European society in dress, language, manners and loyalty to the ruling power. The Haskalah eventually influenced the creation of both the Reform and Zionist movements.


Dalia’s third letter to Yossi

Dear Yossi,

I was eager to finish reading the book, not only in order to summarize all my notes, but also because I hoped to find a particular something in the remaining letters. I also hoped that my comments in our final exchange could be more personal in nature, lest I embarrass you because of the discussion regarding Jews views of non-Jews. 

1- I was disappointed when I realised that I would not find what I had hoped to find. You spoke about the concept of God’s chosen people but you completely ignored another issue, namely the Jewish view of gentiles in the Talmud. This is a topic that is widely and regularly cited across the Arab world. I would like to tell you that I, myself, have personally encountered a negative experience on this matter. Needless to say, this was a serious shock to me.

2-I know that there are some Jews who reject this view, and you, yourself, have mentioned the fact that your wife was Christian before she converted to Judaism, meaning that you loved and respected her even though she was not born Jewish. However, you should know that Arabs are very familiar with the Jews’ views about gentiles, and deem the Jews to be condescending. Consequently, I contend that you must tackle this issue. I don’t really know how to deal with holy texts, but if you, as a religious person, were to address this issue, you could very well attain your desired goal of promoting understanding and eventually peace.

Dalia Aziz from Alexandria, Egypt


Has a BA degree in Arabic literature and another BA degree in Hebrew literature. 


To read Yossi’s response check this link