This is Yossi’s reply to Ramzi Nari from Iraq. To read Ramzi’s full response check this link


Dear Ramzi,

Thank you so much for your warm and extraordinarily thoughtful response to my book. Your letter touched me deeply, from beginning to end. I am grateful for your insights, your concern for and friendship for the Jewish people. When you write “my friend Yossi,” I took that literally; I am delighted to reciprocate your friendship.

I was especially moved by your deep understanding of Jewish history and experience, and by your own memories of the Jewish experience in Iraq. While we can’t undo the past, my hope is that, by reaching out to each other, we can begin to heal some of the wounds.

I found it interesting that you felt I dedicated too much space to religion, and you ask whether a majority of religious Jews share my views. The majority of religious Jews are certainly more conservative than I am, though my views are well within the Israeli mainstream conversation. As for why I devoted so much space to religion in the book, the first answer is, simply, because that is who I am. My worldview is deeply religious, and in reaching out to my neighbors, I tried to be exactly who I am.

But there is another, more practical reason: In the Middle East, as you well know, religion saturates all aspects of life. I believe that if peace is going to happen, we will need the imprint of religion for the mutual concessions each side will have to offer. Interestingly, when the UAE and Bahrain signed their recent peace agreement with Israel, they called it “the Abraham Accords,” precisely because they felt the need to anchor the peace process in tradition. That is what I was hoping to do with the book as well.

As for whether Palestinians will “sympathize” with Jewish suffering, the truth is I don’t expect it. My goal isn’t to convince but to explain; not to change opinions but to help my neighbors understand why we Jews think the way we do.

Readers of the book have asked me whether my ideas about the conflict have changed as a result of encountering Palestinians. The truth is, my ideas have remained pretty much what they were. But even if my ideas haven’t necessarily changed, I have changed: I can no longer hide behind my anger and my fear as an Israeli and ignore what is happening to my Palestinian neighbors. I still believe that Palestinian leaders are largely responsible for the failure of the peace process, that there could have been a Palestinian state had Arafat been prepared to compromise, that Abbas has missed one opportunity after another. Once I would have ended the conversation there: If you Palestinians want to end the occupation, go complain to your leaders.

But today I feel a responsibility to hold my leadership to account, along with the Palestinian leadership. I can’t only blame the Palestinian side. So in that sense, I’ve changed. Any human encounter has the potential to change us. That is what I am seeking: to change my neighbors and to be changed by them.

I hope that you will one day visit me in Jerusalem –you are most welcome.

With warm regards,