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)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2018 Release date: 06/01/2018 Genre: Nonfiction
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