Dear Yossi,

I was seven years old when I heard the word “Israel” for the first time and that was while I was a pupil studying in one of the Syrian Baathist schools. They taught us that Israel was the occupying entity which is trying to take over the entire Arab world. I was surrounded by this hostile rhetoric towards Israel until the age of fourteen, when I started reading and researching on my own and only then I found out that what I had been taught till then was filled with lies and distortions.

I continued witnessing these distortions of truth while I was doing my military service in one of the military bases in Damascus. I saw and heard how they were making up rumors and false information about Israel and the Jews in order to spread fear among Syrians. They were determined to convince my fellow Syrians that if the Baath regime fell – the only alternative would be the evil and brutal Israel regime that would take over. 

I, on the other hand, believe that if Israel ever took over I, as a Syrian,  wouldn’t be forced to leave my country the way the Baath regime forced us to flee years ago.

When The Syrian revolution began I was even more convinced of the way that the Syrian Baath regime had distorted perceptions regarding Israel and how they had been fooling us by referring to themselves as “The Axe of Resistance” against Israel. 

I read “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor” and was touched by the way you, Yossi Klein Halevi, referred to us, Arabs, as your neighbor. While reading the book I sensed how your faith and your beliefs helped you to see, to acknowledge and understand your Palestinian neighbor. 

I personally believe that Judaism is an excellent example of spirituality that guides people to believing in the one God. I also believe that Christianity is also an example of a religion that teaches peace and patience. As a Muslim I view the three monotheistic religions as the three angles of the triangle that aims to spread values of getting closer to God, pursuing peace and patience. 

I was also impressed by the manner in which you shared your own community’s  moments of happiness and sadness while writing to your neighbor. 

I loved how you quoted verses from the Torah and the Quran that share similar meaning even though the words/languages used are different.

I felt your pride as a Jew who lives on the land of Israel, particularly in Jerusalem – a land that is deeply rooted in the Jewish identity. At the same time this pride did not cause you to deny your neighbors’ right to live on this land with you in peace and security. 

I personally keep asking myself why so many people deny the Jewish people’s right to live on the land of Israel and why they perceive them as occupiers. Isn’t this land belong to God? Isn’t God wise enough to grant the land to whomever he wants? I believe that Jews inherited the land and there’s wisdom behind this. 

Dear Yossi, I would like you to know that the people living in this region are fed up of wars and death. Many believe that the time has come to end the killing in the region. Let’s strive for peace so that we can create a flourishing future for our kids. a future of justice, freedom and dignity that includes whoever lives in this region. 

Let the fear that preoccupies our minds go to hell. This fear is a result of the dictatorships that taught us to fear Israel as the enemy. It’s time we recognize Israel as a state that is well developed and progressive in all aspects and instead of perceiving it as the enemy we should accept this country and learn from it. 

Yossi, your book has enriched my knowledge about  a lot of topics that I was apparently ignorant about, regarding Judaism, even though I have been reading about Judaism for several years already. I even compared what you wrote in your book with other books I had read about Judaism and found the information you shared to be reliable (it matched what I had already read before).

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Arabs do not read and because nowadays social media has an easy access to everybody through phones, computers, TV etc I suggest delivering the messages that are included in “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor” through a media content, such as clips/videos. I believe that through these means it will enable you to spread your message and reach people’s hearts regardless of their nationality and religious background, wherever they are. I think that your message should be titled “Israel is a message of Peace”

My deepest regards. 

Writer and director,

Kamal Al-Hasoon