In the opening of his book, Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor, author Yossi Klein Halevi writes that “one of the main obstacles to peace is the inability to hear the other side’s story.” Over the course of 10 letters, Yossi attempts to convey the Israeli-Jewish narrative about Israel to an imagined Palestinian audience, in the hopes that they will listen and respond to his story. Many did, and the newest version of the book contains a selection of those Palestinian responses. When woven together, these letters start to reveal the Palestinian narrative, at times overlapping with the Jewish perspective and, more often, conflicting with it.
Starting next week on February 11th and 12th, over 30 young adults will meet in various locations across Greater Boston to discuss the book, share their perspectives on the conflict, and reflect with one another. Over the course of the book club, they will discuss the book, meet with a Palestinian to gain a firsthand perspective, and come together for a Shabbat dinner. Registration is still open, and you can get more information and join a group here.
All of the authors, both Israeli and Palestinian, make salient points. The challenge for readers is not necessarily to reconcile these points of view, but to challenge themselves to understand conflicting narratives and struggle with the ability to hear and hold both. When reading the book, there were arguments I disagreed with and arguments that made sense to me. I was inclined to empathize but didn’t necessarily know how to act. I have gained a new perspective about the conflict and the centrality of each side acknowledging one another’s identity and story. My hope is that by participating in this book club, readers will have a similar experience. Only through communication, interaction, and empathy by Israelis and Palestinians working together on the ground can peace be imagined. I encourage you to join us for all or even one of the meetings this winter.