From the Bookshelf

From the Bookshelf: Yossi Klein Halevi, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about what I’m reading. Welcome back to “From the Bookshelf”, where I share short excerpts from and reflections on the books informing me, influencing me, and provoking me.

I just finished reading Yossi Klein Halevi’s short book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor. I first met Yossi when he came to our Hebrew Union College class during that first year we spent in Israel. I was impressed with his eloquence, his thoughtfulness, and his willingness to address the hard and painful topics of Israeli society.

This book, which came out in May 2018, is addressed to an imagined Palestinian neighbor on the hill across the security wall from Yossi. In the book, he expresses a yearning to hear and share stories, to somehow reach a level of understanding, even if not agreement.

There may well be no way to bridge our opposing narratives about the founding of Israel. Even as we seek a two-state solution, we will likely remain with a two -narrative problem. But that historical divide must not prevent a political compromise. I honor history – up to the point where it no longer inspires but imprisons. Accommodating both our narratives, learning to live with two contradictory stories, is the only way to deny the past a veto over the future. p. 88

Ultimately, Yossi Klein Halevi argues that the only way forward (that doesn’t leave one or the other population completely destroyed) is to embrace, understand, and love one’s own story, and to set parts of it aside for the sake of practical compromise. Where purity of story outweighs compromise (a situation that can’t help but make me think of American politics today), protracted suffering will follow.