The following letter to the Palestinian people shall never be sent. After at least three rewritings and endless discussions among my colleagues, it has been concluded that it would never have the effect we had hoped. Its message would be misused and distorted by the traumatized Palestinian people whose hearts it was meant to open. And the backlash it would cause in my Jewish community among those who have come back to settle the hills of Judea after our 2000 year exile, would be fierce and unforgiving. Traumatized as we are by our own terrible pain and loss, instinctively and derisively we lash out at anyone who expresses empathy for the pain of the other. My community would accuse me of lack of empathy for our own, of desecrating the memory of our dead. Letters are not the way. Only direct human contact can begin to heal the wounds.
I am what you might call an alternative peace activist. The return to the biblical heartland of Israel — Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) — where Abraham spoke with God and where King David ruled, is a value that animates my being. This modern-day miracle is the fulfillment of the dreams of our forefathers. But I also hear the echoes of the biblical prophets in my ear, crying out for righteousness and justice for all. I cannot abide the lack of rights and the loss of dignity that the Palestinians suffer daily. I witness it directly and hear about it in the first person, and it tears me up inside.
I believe that there will be no solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict until the Palestinians come face to face with the fact that we Jews have seen ourselves as a people, and not just as a religion, for time immemorial. This is a bedrock fact of our identity. And at the very same time I also believe that there will be no solution to the conflict until we Israelis admit that the there is a national component to Palestinian identity. They understand themselves to be a people, and therefore they are. No amount of denying that will change their sense of themselves.
Nine months ago I opened the front door of my apartment in Alon Shvut and took a 20-minute walk that began to change my life. My wife asked me to reconsider—it might be dangerous, she said—but I went anyway. My heart beat just a little bit faster than usual as I walked through the Arab fields and vineyards that surround my home in the Judean Hills.