Dear Yossi, 

I read your wonderful book which shows how much effort you have put into it and proves your dedication to spread the words of truth: these words that reflect the spirit of millions of Jewish men, women and kids for thousands of years. Your words represent the voice of generations of Jewish people who refused to accept exile and humiliation; people who were seeking a stable life in the midst of death and destruction. I could actually feel the existential fears of the Jews while reading your words on page 59 of the Arabic edition. 

While reading your words, I envisioned in my mind an innocent, little, angry girl who witnesses how her family is being torn because her two brothers are fighting each other.  She is horrified to see her house burning and about to fall down and we can clearly sense the imminent threat she feels due to her deep love for her family (page 57, Arabic translation). 

This girl is unique because she doesn’t like the tall, empty buildings on the other side of the wall. It feels as if she wants to say things but remains silent. When the fight between the brothers reaches its peak and the girl realizes that the path to peace is blocked, she decides to follow a spiritual path that may touch the her brothers’ hearts and help them to reconcile. This girl believes that there is a spiritual domain that lies above all of this earthly, materialistic life, which can lead in one way or another to hope. 

She believes that the first step towards hope is standing in the middle and balancing the two sides that are represented by her two brothers, as if she were a measuring scale. She feels that the two sides are equal and asks herself “where is the problem? why can’t my brothers reconcile and make peace already? It’s absurd”. Then she walks towards the balcony that overlooks the French Hill, holding a bunch of papers. She yells out loud, calls her two brothers and throws the papers from the balcony. While the wind blows the sheets of paper we can read beautiful, wise words that were written on them: 

“But you are never permitted, under any circumstances, to humiliate another human being” (page 58 in the Arabic translation) 

“The sin of not seeing, of becoming so enraptured with one’s own story, the justice and poetry of one’s national epic, that you can’t acknowledge the consequences to another people of fulfilling the whole of your own people’s dream” (page 57 in the Arabic translation),

“The Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua has called our conflict a struggle between “right and right” (page 61 in the Arabic translation)

“I believe that if our two societies are someday to coexist as equal neighbors, we need to begin talking about this prolonged ordeal that has bound us together in pathological entwinement” (page 59 in the Arabic translation).

While the two brothers are trying to collect the sheets of paper that flew up in the air, a bird lands on top of the girl’s shoulder and starts singing a melancholic  melody. “Why are you sad?” The girls asks. 

“One of your brothers has a problem and this causes him to be unstable”, the bird replies.

“Is this instability created by an economic reason? because if this is the case – I can ask some friends for help”, the girl says.

“The economic aspect is only one part of the problem but it is not THE problem”, the bird replies. “Your cousins in Iraq and the Gulf have loads of money but they’re fighting each other endlessly”.

The girl turns to the unstable brother and asks him “Are you willing to divide this house so that we can put an end to this quarrel?” 

The brother responds: “Fine. I will temporarily accept this division but you must know that this is just a ceasefire until I become stronger and take over the entire house”

The girl gets angry and yells at her brother: “I cannot believe that you actually want to take over the entire house and kick us all out !”

She turns to the bird in despair and asks “How can I solve the problem with this brother?”

“Ask your little neighbor”, the bird replies and flies away.

Dear Yossi, I’m not an imam, nor am I a politician. I just wanted to express my thoughts in my own way. I work as a social mediator whose job is to bridge gaps between people.

After reading your book I needed some peace and silence around me. I felt like listening to wah-jai-ma music but even those relaxing tunes could not distract me from the sad reality of our region. 

I recalled how four years ago I decided to implement my experience in mediation by helping my own community. I probed deep into the situation of the Arab world and wherever I turned, I found myself going back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I tried to study about the Middle East without touching on this conflict but it was impossible to avoid it. I started a social project with very limited resources; its aim was to create a civil integration in Arab communities, where the main problems existed. This project was supposed to create social, cultural and humanitarian developments in this region, which would ultimately bring upon authentic peace based on deep connections formed between all sides involved.

When I look at the reality of the Arab World  I am filled with sadness because I see how, on the one hand,  so many issues and problems are dealt with violently by the common people, while on the other hand their politicians impose political and security measures on them. The social solutions are not even being taken into consideration. And even when someone finally decides to address a problem through a social perspective it is being used by religious figures to incite and spread hatred. 

In the Arab World, everybody is being incited by their governments against the virtual enemy, which happens to be Israel, unfortunately. We all know that the Palestinian issue is a card that is being used by all Arab dictatorships. This makes me wonder why Israel is trying to conduct peace agreements with these dictatorships, which do not represent the people nor do they represent their aspirations. Due to this, the Arab people who are living under these dictatorships perceive any agreement conducted by their governments as treason,  whether with Israel or any other entity. 

Recently, the “virtual enemy” has shifted from Israel to either Iran or Turkey, and I’m asking myself two questions:

The first question addresses the future:

Due to the deep rooted conspiracy theories in the Arab mindset, Arabs believe that they are constantly being targeted. So, when the Iranian and Turkish threats end, who will be the next virtual enemy? To make things clear, I am wondering if the Palestinian issue will come back to haunt us once current threats are gone.

The other question/issue I am wondering about is a pragmatic one: If the current Arab dictatorships conducted peace treaties – which I personally view as mere ceasefire – with Israel, will they be able to change the mindset of the mainstream Arab crowd?

In my opinion, only a few will change their views regarding Israel, but the vast majority will remain hateful because the dictators want the situation to stay this way in order to show off their fake victories against the virtual enemy, when needed. 

Just like the color-blind cannot distinguish between colors, so is your Arab neighbor who cannot distinguish between false and true reasons behind his miseries. Your Arab neighbor is sinking in bloodshed, catastrophes and destruction. This grave situation requires seeking permanent solutions that would dramatically change your neighbor’s reality in all aspects: The Humane, the social and the cultural. I believe that this is a golden time to seek and find these solutions. 

My question to you, dear Yossi, is this: Who are you addressing in this book? Are you addressing your hostile Arab neighbor, the undecided/unstable one, the one who understands your claims or a future neighbor who has not been born yet?

Let’s explore these four types of Arab neighbors:

The first one is the hostile one who rejects the Israeli case for ideological reasons because he allowed himself to be passively indoctrinated.  He perceives Israel as the colonizer/occupier and he refuses to change this view no matter what. 

The second type is the undecided/unstable in his views. By “undecided” I am referring to the one who follows the flow and changes his mind easily. Originally this type rejected the Israeli case due to reasons that may have been influenced by religious indoctrination. This type is more dangerous (in my opinion) than the hostile one because he is prone to being easily manipulated and can change his views 180 degrees. Changing this type’s character is extremely challenging, but you can utilize the periods of times when he is not against you in a way that serves our dreams of fulfilling a peaceful solution. 

The third type of neighbor is the one who is convinced and accepts the Israeli case. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many who belong to this type and the few who do are afraid to speak their mind and voice their opinions because these views can be taken against them when things become worse. Such views may cause them to end up tortured in the Arab jails. This type barely has any influence on the Arab mobs.  

The fourth and last type is the neighbor who hasn’t been born yet. This is the one I was referring to as the “little neighbor” in my story. I would love to elaborate more about this type when I get the opportunity to discuss things with you  in private.

To be honest with you, I tried to be practical and therefore I sent your book in Arabic to several friends who belong to the first three types of neighbors in order to present the reality. I am sure you are familiar with these types of responses, but I still want to share with you in brief the types of responses that I received and expect you to receive as well:

1- If anybody who belongs to the first type of neighbors reads your book you will obviously receive negative responses, and these readers will perceive you, the author, as an arrogant man who twists history. Your sympathy with your Palestinian neighbor will not make a difference due to the constant indoctrination that such people unconsciously absorbed.

To be honest with you, mentioning your past as a radical religious zealous will be taken against you in the Arab mentality and mindset. You will be perceived as someone whose past has been tainted and the bad can never be erased, unlike the Western mentality and mindset that would perceive you as an enlightened person who progressed and is courageously willing to admit his faults. 

2- If anybody who belongs to the second type reads your book he may be indifferent or even bored because he is not really into spirituality. The fact that his views may have been influenced by religious indoctrination doesn’t mean that he is a purely spiritual. 

This type’s mindset seeks only for what goes to his advantage. He doesn’t care about the humane aspect, he doesn’t probe deep into things and bases his perspectives on shallow grounds. 

3- The ones who belong to the third type, the open minded-ones, are the adversaries of the second type and would not tolerate them but, at the same time, they are in constant and direct touch with the first type and have learned how to manage with those people (at least to some degree).

If anybody who belongs to the third type reads your book he would think deeply how to change this miserable reality. However, he would most likely remain silent because of the risks that thinking this way poses. 

Dear Yossi, you have mentioned in your book a well-known fact which is that 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab. It is also well-known that many Israeli Arabs face difficulties integrating into the Israeli society and this is attributed to so many reasons. But the reason I would like to focus on is the guilt that they feel towards the Palestinians living  in Gaza, the West Bank and the rest of the world. By trying to integrate into the Israeli society they feel as if they are betraying their fellow Palestinians. 

These difficult and challenging feelings among Israeli Arabs can be changed and directed towards achieving peace in this region only if a middleman from within the Arab community, who was balanced enough, interfered in order to create this change. Without this middleman, no matter how much Israeli Jews invest in defending their cause, this change wouldn’t be possible. 

Last but not least, perhaps I didn’t add anything new but I surely did my best to be as genuine and clear as possible.

I would love to get in touch with you and exchange ideas and I apologize for not being able to write my response in Hebrew – this great, ancient language that I am, unfortunately, ignorant about. 

 

Warmest regards

 

Omar from Syria