Cover image for Letters to my Palestinian neighbor / Yossi Klein Halevi.
Letters to my Palestinian neighbor / Yossi Klein Halevi.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Physical Description:
xii, 204 pages ; 20 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
956.9405 KLE Book Adult General Collection

On Order



New York Times bestseller

Attempting to break the agonizing impasse between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli commentator and award-winning author of Like Dreamers directly addresses his Palestinian neighbors in this taut and provocative book, empathizing with Palestinian suffering and longing for reconciliation as he explores how the conflict looks through Israeli eyes.

I call you "neighbor" because I don't know your name, or anything personal about you. Given our circumstances, "neighbor" might be too casual a word to describe our relationship. We are intruders into each other's dream, violators of each other's sense of home. We are incarnations of each other's worst historical nightmares. Neighbors?

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor is one Israeli's powerful attempt to reach beyond the wall that separates Israelis and Palestinians and into the hearts of "the enemy." In a series of letters, Yossi Klein Halevi explains what motivated him to leave his native New York in his twenties and move to Israel to participate in the drama of the renewal of a Jewish homeland, which he is committed to see succeed as a morally responsible, democratic state in the Middle East.

This is the first attempt by an Israeli author to directly address his Palestinian neighbors and describe how the conflict appears through Israeli eyes. Halevi untangles the ideological and emotional knot that has defined the conflict for nearly a century. In lyrical, evocative language, he unravels the complex strands of faith, pride, anger and anguish he feels as a Jew living in Israel, using history and personal experience as his guide.

Halevi's letters speak not only to his Palestinian neighbor, but to all concerned global citizens, helping us understand the painful choices confronting Israelis and Palestinians that will ultimately help determine the fate of the region.

Author Notes

Yossi Klein Halevi is an American-born (1953) journalist, commentator, and author, based in Jerusalem since 1982. His education includes a BA in Jewish Studies from Brooklyn College and a MS in journalism from Northwestern University. He was a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem from 2003-2009. He writes op-ed pages of American newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. His first book was Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist: The Story of a Transformation (1995). His other works include, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land (2001), Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation (2013), and Letters to My Palestinian Neighbors (2018).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Halevi, codirector of the Muslim Leadership Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute, which teaches Muslim American leaders about Judaism and Israel, offers a poetic and moving account of "my experience as occupier" that asserts Israel's legitimacy and evokes its emotional importance for Jews, but refuses to gloss over its flaws. Halevi's goal is to open a dialogue with an imagined Palestinian neighbor living on the other side of a protective wall constructed in Jerusalem to deter terrorists. He frames his chapters as a series of letters to that neighbor that include both concise, balanced histories-of such topics as the history of modern Zionism and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza-and his own memories of growing up an American Jew afraid that Israel would be destroyed in 1967, moving to Israel, and how his "romance with the settlement movement ended." Halevi, who considers both Israel and Palestine to be "rightful claimants" to the territory for historical and emotional reasons, makes clear that he understands Palestinians' perspectives. In that spirit, he asks his imagined correspondent for "respect for my people's story" rather than to buy into positions advocated by the Palestinian government and media that deny the legitimacy of Jewish claims to the land and seek "to be free of Israel's existence entirely." In keeping with Halevi's approach, this heartfelt, empathetic plea for connection and mutual acknowledgement is available as a free download in Arabic. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

DEARYOSSI, It has always been my belief that it's important to engage and understand the other in our ongoing struggles in Israel and Palestine. That is why I was encouraged when I received your book and read the title: "Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor." From the outset you make it clear that your book, told in a series of 10 letters to a hypothetical Palestinian correspondent, telis your own story: that of a New York Jew who grew up in the right-wing Zionist youth movement Betar, and who then decided in the summer of 1982, during the Lebanon War, to, as you put it, join the Jewish people "in the greatest dare of its history." After living for 36 years in your adopted country, you write (still addressing your imagined Palestinian audience), you believe that the greatest challenge facing your generation of Israelis is "to turn outward - to you, neighbor, because my future is inseparable from yours." Later you add: "What choice do we have but to share this land?" It is in that spirit that you say you undertook writing these missives, to embark "on a journey of listening to each other." I find this an admirable goal. But reading your words, I wonder how aware you are of what our feelings are on the other side. Though you do at least acknowledge that there is a Palestinian "counterstory," one of "invasion, occupation and expulsion," a history of "dislocation" and "humiliating defeats," the sentiment you most express, again and again in your letters, is how deeply we, the Palestinians, misunderstand you. It is our ignorance of your history and religion and attachment to the land that you seek to correct here. Over the years I myself have made serious attempts to come closer to my Israeli neighbors, to form friendships and appreciate their worldviews, and many of my books have been translated and published in Israel. Yet in reading your letters I couldn't help feeling condescended to - an unfortunate reaction since I am, I believe, your intended interlocutor. In one of your letters you wonder how your people can "empower" mine. But it seems the wrong question when all most of us wish is for Israel to withdraw from the territories it has occupied and leave us to go on with our lives. It also doesn't help that while claiming a new understanding of and sensitivity to our plight, you rehearse old and discredited narratives, like the suggestion that the land of Palestine was empty before Zionists arrived or the notion that it was Israel that has constantly offered peace, which the Palestinians have persisted in rejecting. (I was involved in the Oslo negotiations and I can tell you that Israel shares plenty of responsibility for their failure.) Your letters seem like an intellectual exercise, which is a privilege that you enjoy but we do not. "If you were in my place, neighbor, what would you do?" you ask. But we are not in your place. You present the central problem of the conflict as a "cycle of denial," in which my side is denying yours "legitimacy," not sufficiently acknowledging "Jewish peoplehood," and yours is denying mine "national sovereignty." But these things are not equivalent. Twenty percent of the population of Israel proper are Palestinians who are often treated as second-class citizens. And the almost five million Palestinians, like me, who live in the territories that Israel occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, have been living for the past half century under the grueling regime of the occupation. These are actual realities, ones that only one side has the power to change. To make peace possible the Palestinians are not required to become Zionists, to embrace the narrative of Jewish suffering and redemption that you recount in your letters. That you insist on this point as a prerequisite for peace makes me wonder how serious you are about sharing the land and reaching out to your neighbors. Unlike you I will not demand that you see the Nakba, the catastrophe that Israel's founding caused for my people, in the same way as I see it. You couldn't. Suffice it for you to recognize your responsibility and to put a recognition of that culpability on the agenda for negotiations when the time comes for arriving at a settlement between us. Many of your arguments are couched in religious terms about the inextricability of Zionism from Judaism. But ours is not a religious war. It's a conflict between two nationalities in which one of these, Israel, makes it physically impossible for the other, Palestine, to exercise a right to selfdetermination. "The purpose of Judaism," as you see it, "is to sanctify one people with the goal of sanctifying all people." The Palestinians don't need to be sanctified by Israel. We simply want the right to control our fate, a desire I know you must understand well from studying Jewish history. I agree with you that peace can come only if we succeed in sharing this land and living on it with justice and fairness for both nations. And I will forever agree with your sentiment that the "violence, suppression, rage, despair" that characterizes our relationship must end. But perhaps the problem with your letters is that they don't read as if they are seeking an answer, hoping for that Palestinian neighbor - me - to respond, but instead seem like lectures, half a conversation with a partner who is expected to stay quiet and listen. Sincerely, Raja raja SHEHADEH is the author, most recently, of "Where the Line Is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine."

Table of Contents

A Note to the Readerp. xi
Letter 1 The Wall between Usp. 1
Letter 2 Need and Longingp. 25
Letter 3 Fate and Destinyp. 49
Letter 4 Narrative and Presencep. 63
Letter 5 Six Days and Fifty Yearsp. 91
Letter 6 The Partition of Justicep. 117
Letter 7 Isaac and Ishmaelp. 135
Letter 8 The Israeli Paradoxp. 155
Letter 9 Victims and Survivorsp. 175
Letter 10 A Booth at the Edge of the Desertp. 193
Acknowledgmentsp. 201