This is Yossi’s Response to the Palestinian reader Yousef. You can find Yousef’s response here


My Dear Brother Yousef,

Your letter was exactly the response I was hoping – praying – for: a willingness to engage with my story while upholding the dignity of your story. Of all the responses I’ve received, yours is one of the most precious. Thank you for this gift – of pain, hope, honesty, nobility.

Most of all, I am grateful for your moral and intellectual courage – which is perhaps the most difficult form of courage to master.

Your spiritual struggle to free yourself from hate – and it is far more a spiritual than a political process – is a struggle I deeply identify with. Growing up in a Holocaust survivor family, I nurtured feelings of hatred and revenge against Germany and Europe generally. I hated Germans so passionately that I would shout at tourists speaking German on the streets of Jerusalem. I refused to buy products made in Germany and felt literally contaminated if I touched something with those words on it. I thought that that was the most idealistic part of me: After all, I was reacting against evil. It was only as a got older that I began to understand that the only one being hurt by my hatred was me.

There were two moments in your extraordinary letter that forced me to pause and re-read. The first is when you write that you are “learning how to feel less inferior.” In one short, devastating phrase, you brilliantly summed up the terrible consequences of occupation. Thank you for holding up a mirror to me and forcing me to see the results of my country’s actions.  

The second moment when I had to stop and internalize the power of your words was this: “Do you, Yossi, care about our misery? Do you care about people like me who, while living in Palestine, can only fantasize about a thriving state like yours but cannot see it ever coming true?”
Your question demands an honest answer, and so it is this:  My fears tend to overcome my capacity for empathy. One of the reasons I wrote this book was to force myself out of my moral complacency. Once again, thank you for forcing me to see my human limitations.

I understand your fear of a small Palestinian state, led by corrupt leaders and denied access to parts of the land that you naturally feel a deep connection to. That’s hardly an inspiring dream of the future. And I appreciate your understanding of Jewish fears of finding ourselves a minority again – and also of our need for there to be one place on the planet that is unequivocally committed to being a refuge for the Jewish people and to prioritizing Jewish culture and values, the one country in the world where Hebrew is the main language and the Jewish year cycle the official calendar. As the son of a people that waited for two thousand years to achieve those goals, I am bound by history and memory and tradition to protect them.

In the single state you suggest, would Jews be guaranteed safe refuge? Would Jewish culture shape the public space? Given the reality of the Middle East, and the fate of non-Muslim minorities, I see no evidence at all to trust any guarantee in a state where the Jewish people doesn’t fully control their own destiny.

And then there are the security issues. I fear that there are too many individuals among both our peoples who would see a single state as an opportunity to impose their version of one state – either Jewish or Arab supremacy. They have the passion and perhaps the power. The outrages of one side would only reinforce the outrages of the other.

I believe that the most likely model for a Palestinian-Israeli single state would be any of the multi-ethnic countries that have disintegrated in the last few decades – from Yugoslavia to Syria. I think that large numbers of Israelis would simply leave such a country – and whatever is left of a Palestinian middle class would join them.

You mentioned the new grassroots movement of Israelis and Palestinians called Two States One Homeland. I find the idea federation idea in principle intriguing, though it raises so many practical questions that I don’t see how it can work. Still, I am open to any possibility that would ensure a Jewish majority state at the end of the process, and plan to meet with the head of the organization (who read “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor” and with whom I’ve been in touch). You are right that it has almost no Israeli support. But if the settlement movement prevails and we move toward a de facto one state, then this and other ideas may suddenly find greater Israeli (and Palestinian?) support.

I am so grateful to have found you as a reader (I read books in the same way: literally inhaling their fragrance). Most of all I am grateful to have you as a friend. I am ready, eager, to meet you – either in the land we share or in your new home in England, if I ever get there.

Meanwhile, let’s continue writing and sharing ideas.

Blessings to you and your family.

With gratitude, with hope, with friendship –


P.S. As for the name Yousef: My name “Yossi” is short for Yosef, Hebrew for Yousef.