This is Yossi’s reply to Dalia from Egypt. To read Dalia’s full response check this link 


Dear Dalia,

First, please forgive the long delay in responding to your thoughtful and important letter.

The issue you raise – the relationship of Judaism to the non-Jew – is a crucial question for Jews today.

The foundation of Judaism in the Torah – the Bible – is that every human life is precious. That is why the Torah begins with the creation of Adam and Eve and not with the founding of the Jewish people: to teach us that we are all part of the same human family, with the same father and mother.

The most frequent commandment in the Torah is not to observe the Sabbath or the laws of keeping kosher – it is to remember that we, the Jewish people, were slaves in the land of Egypt and so we must treat the stranger fairly. That commandment appears 35 times in the Torah, and is one of the strong foundations for Jewish concern for every human being.

A famous rabbinic story tells that, when Pharaoh and his army drowned in the Red Sea, the angels rejoiced, but God rebuked them: Didn’t I create the Egyptians too? God demands. How can you be rejoicing at the death of My children?

I learned this story as a child in my Jewish school and it made a deep impression on me.

When you read the books of the Prophets of Israel, there too you see a great concern for the lives of non-Jews.

So that is one side of the story: a deep biblical affirmation of the value of every life, non-Jews no less than Jews.

Things started to get more complicated when the Jewish people went into exile and lived under severe oppression, especially in Christian countries but also, at times, in Muslim countries too. As a result, a tradition emerged in some parts of Judaism that saw the non-Jews as the enemies of the Jewish people. But even during the exile there were always different opinions about these questions.

Some of the quotes you mention are exaggerated, and some, I fear, were invented by those seeking to harm the good name of the Jewish people. But yes, there are problematic expressions about non-Jews and those too are part of our tradition.  

Today most Jews have normal relations with non-Jews and certainly don’t see non-Jews as our enemies. The situation is more problematic in the ultra-Orthodox community, which tends to have the most negative attitudes toward non-Jews.

I’m so sorry to hear about your awful experience in Sinai.

I hope that you will be able to meet other Jews and discover that that man didn’t represent the Jewish people.

I’m happy to continue this conversation if it is useful for you.

With blessings,