This is Yossi’s Response to the Syrian reader Omar. You can find Omar’s response here


Dear Omar,

Thank you for your beautiful and deeply thoughtful letter. You write that you wish you could communicate with me in Hebrew; I wish I could write to you in Arabic, a language I have learned to love but only from a distance, unfortunately not from within the experience. (I tried to learn Arabic as a young man and loved the similarities with Hebrew, but I didn’t get much past that.)

There is so much to respond to here. First, your intriguing allegory. I often watch the birds flying back and forth over the wall, from my “Israeli hill” to the “Palestinian hill” across the way, and marvel at how they mock our human separateness. They remind us that we are, in the end, not bodies but souls, and that one day we too will rise above these sad limitations.    

You ask why should Israel negotiate with Arab dictators who lack legitimacy among their own people? Good question. I wish I had a better answer than this one: because that’s whom we have to deal with. I have asked Palestinian friends why is it that the only two political options that Palestinian society has managed to create is either a corrupt Palestinian Authority or a violent fundamentalist Hamas, and have never received a good answer.

The problem of making peace with dictators is a pattern in this conflict. Israel made peace with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, but not with their peoples. And so the peace has remained cold, unloved, constantly threatened.  And yet it has lasted for decades, which means there is still value to the effort.

I agree with you about this: The Palestinian tragedy isn’t going away. It will continue to haunt us until we deal with it in a serious way. This is where I think Netanyahu has done Israel a great disservice. He has given us a series of tactical short-term victories, but has failed to deal with the roots of the problem. As the leader of the right, he has the credibility within the Israeli public to make overtures to the Palestinians, but he hasn’t done so. Interestingly, the Israeli leaders who did evacuate settlements – Menachem Begin in Sinai in 1982, Ariel Sharon in Gaza in 2005 – were both men of the right. I wish that Netanyahu had gone in their direction. History will remember him, I believe, as a missed opportunity.

Please tell me something about yourself and your life. I am happy to continue to be in touch with you.

With blessings and warm regards,