A plea for “radical goodwill” in the face of the seemingly intractable bad blood between Israelis and Palestinians.
In Judaism, writes the philosophically adept Halevi (Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, 2013), a senior fellow at the Shalom Harman Institute, there is one transgression so great that even fasting at Yom Kippur cannot atone for it: “desecrating God’s Name.” By his account, interacting with practitioners of other faiths strengthens and “sanctifies” the bond, forcing the recognition that there are many paths to truth and that, in the end, all that will be left of us is bones and souls. Coexistence has hitherto been sought by exclusion and separation, with Jews, Muslims, and Christians retreating into their separate corners in the Holy Land. Clearly that’s not working, Halevi argues, and if every path toward a solution is fraught with problems, at least there’s promise at the end. The author proposes some truly radical solutions, including reparations for Palestinians displaced from their homeland (and for Mizrahim, Jews forced to leave their Arab homelands for Israel in return) and a hard bargain for the intractable: “I forfeit Greater Israel and you forfeit Greater Palestine,” a proposal likely to fire up opposition among the nationalist hardcore on both sides. More searchingly, Halevi urges that each camp look into its faith to determine where common ground can be found and, even more difficult, where in its doctrine barriers to peace are located: Can Jews give up land they believe sacred, and can Muslims accept the thought that non-Muslims can be equals? The author’s reasoned if sometimes too hopeful suggestions for peaceful reconciliation are surely worth hearing out, though one can imagine the din that would accompany any public reading of his pages among the ranks of Hamas or the Likud.
A good choice for any reader with an interest in Middle Eastern affairs, though perhaps unlikely to sway those whose minds are made up.