...a clarion call, not to arms but to empathy ... So rare is it to hear an uncynical voice on the subject of Arab-Israeli relations that it’s tempting to dismiss this slim but intensely felt book as naive, a soft-hearted offering of the olive branch with no takers in sight. To do so would be a mistake, for Mr. Halevi is a fierce defender of Israel’s sovereignty as well as a clear-eyed observer of Palestinian obstructionism and disingenuousness ... Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor is a profound and original book, the work of a gifted thinker whose allegiance is not so much to a religious or political ideology as to a 'discourse of spiritual dignity.' It is, in its way, a shot in the dark, and if some readers will question its assumptions and its conclusions, none can question the humanity that characterizes its every page.
I hope the book reaches its intended audiences both in the Middle East and around the world. For Halevi, in the end, is still optimistic that there could be peace ... 'One of the main obstacles to peace is an inability to hear the other side’s story,' Halevi writes in a note to the reader, and he invites the other side to listen. 'For peace to succeed in the Middle East, it must speak in some way to our hearts.' Not in the language of politics, but the language of the spirit. It is, he believes, a language shared by both Muslims and Jews, two ancient peoples who have co-habited this tiny part of the world for centuries. Both are traumatized by history, both feel equal attachment to this land.
The argument of critics, though, is that the series of 10 letters addressed to an imagined Palestinian, all written by Yossi Klein Halevi...boils down to a one-sided correspondence ... Halevi, an American-born emigre to Israel, writes with a profound and palpable empathy ... His keen observations — deeply human in scale — ache with a longing to reach across 'the wall between us.'