February 15, 2011 | 1:15 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
In his online “Letter to the Egyptian People ” last Sunday, Rabbi Donniel Hartman from Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute laid out his hopes for future understanding and cooperation with the Egyptian people.
What’s moving and astonishing is that so many Egyptians wrote back.
As you read their comments, below, you’ll see that among at least part of the Egyptian body politic there is a genuine desire to reach out to their long-cut off neighbor to the north.
Hartman, in his letter, wrote:
We, your neighbors, have been speaking a lot about you these last few weeks. As the status quo in your country to which we have become accustomed has changed, some of us expressed concern, others hope, and still others, admiration. Each view has its pundits, whose reading of the “facts” (your reality) seemed somehow to always fit into their pre-existing worldview.
The truth is that we don’t know. We don’t know, first and foremost, who you are. You see, for the last 30 years it seems, we never got a chance to talk. We spoke with your leaders, but as you so aptly proved, they don’t speak for you anymore, if they ever did.
We got used to and comfortable with the existing state of affairs and learned how to adapt and work with it in ways that would fit our own national interests and aspirations. We all must now come to terms with the fact that it is not only about us, but about you. We must begin a new conversation with you, a partner that has declared loud and clear that your voice - the voice of the people - must and will be heard.
I pray that this will be one of the outcomes of your democratic revolution. I hope that our two peoples living in vibrant democracies will find new ways to reach out to each other and respect each other. That does not mean that we always have to agree. It is possible and even likely that there are policies which each one of us is pursuing, either externally or internally, that may differ from the other’s national interest or even moral sensibilities.
We have a critical choice ahead of us. The change in the status quo can cause us to revert to the old and mutually destructive patterns. I hope we do not need to relive the experiences of our grandparents and parents in order to learn yet again that war is not a solution. I pray that we will use the change in the status quo as a catalyst to move us forward. Status quos are comfortable, but they can also lead to stagnation. Our neighborhood is one in which there is still much pain and hatred. We, the two of us, have a unique opportunity to change the rules of the game, to speak, engage, challenge, and even push each other to find a new and vibrant status quo.
I know you are going to be busy over the next number of months and we are not your primary concern. I am nevertheless writing to you to again say, hello, and that we look forward to speaking with you soon. Until then, we wish that your transition to freedom be a peaceful and beneficial one to all your citizens and that your freedom be a blessing to you, and to the whole world. Amen.
NIce, and you can read the whole letter here.
But what follows is even more exceptional. Dozens of Egyptians, many of whom participated in the uprising, wrote back. It seems they too understand that a key to peace will be renewing or in most cases creating familiarity between neighbors, neighbors who have been cut off from each other by the Mubarak’s regime policy of cold peace and anti-Israel incitement.
THANKS FOR UR FEELINGS
Thanks very much for ur feelings towards us! we don`t look forward anew outer conflict with any side! we r seeking for building our country as one of the most democratic country in the world! we r looking forward astrong economy! we r looking forward spreeding democracy to all countries and states in the middle east! for israel…...we don`t want to end the peace accords and treaty with them! but we need to activate the conversation with them as u hope! i hope that one day israelis will listen and trust in our demands according to arab conflict issue! again as president"sadat"said “no more war….no more bloodshed"from our side! but u must also say to palestinians “no more war…no more bloodshed”! and not also palesinians but also all peoples! again mercy for ur feeling towards us in egypt and don`t worry we are akind peoples and war isnot our first option! salam!
moody, Egypt, Feb 15 2011 7:57:00:000AM
Hi, my name is Tareq, half Egyptian, half French. I`m 25 years old and lived almost all my life in France. I`m backpacking in South America now and met two wonderful human beings, Yael and Daniel. The first day we met, we shared some food and talked about the amazing beauty of southern Chile and our journey through Argentina. As we were waiting for cars in the middle of nowhere in Patagonia, I learned to say “eyn machonit” kol beseder, todah” and other words in Hebrew and I showed them some Arabic music. One night, after dinning, we had a deep conversation. We apologized, sincerely. For the first time, in this trip, surrounded by beauty of nature and the peace of places that have never seen a war, I saw Israelis as human as me. There, in front of me, I had people like me. Made of flesh and feelings, like me. And above that, terrific people. Nice and warm people. Israelis. Peace starts in ur hearts. I hope we all get over hatred. World`s problems start in our minds. Shalom, neighbours.
m., Egyptian, Feb 15 2011 7:27:00:000AM
Letter to the Egytian People
Hi Donniel: It seems that this letter came from the heart? I do not know yet!! Unfortunately, history has taught us as Arabs not to trust the Israeli people due the their conducts in their sever and brutal revenge treatments to the innocent people; for example the civilians of Gaza and the civilians of Lebanon. I think time has come for Israelis to prove their good intentions on the ground, not just beautiful and flowery statements which made for public consumption and get washed out over night
Kal Slayyeh, USA, Feb 14 2011 8:12:00:000PM
A Voice for humanity
Today, your article made me cry; cry for all the wasted years; for the hatred and the destruction. Even now, can we all just talk to each other and begin to heal our world. Tikkun Olam - Shalom, Salaam, Peace
Dr P, Ireland, Feb 14 2011 6:05:00:000PM
Working together for peace
My dear neighbor, Donnel Hartman, Thank you so much for this amazing letter, for the warm feelings and brotherly sentiment. I was there in Tahrir square, I was one of the young men who fought for democracy and welfare for Egypt and I promise you to fight as much as I can against anyone who tries to turn this peaceful noble act into a private agenda leading to war. I have always acknowledged Israel as a wonderful state who would -one day in the future- be an essential element for development of the middle East. And I still recognize and admire my country`s first neighbor… I am sure that the future has more joy to both of our nations in more warm peace. Cold peace isn`t enough for me anymore… I will work for that. We will work together for the good of our people Shalom from Egypt
Ramy Hussein, Egypt, Feb 14 2011 6:02:00:000PM
i red your letter and like u i believe in piece and hope for our countries friendship , i also believe that democracy never starts a war , and as a newly established relationship it requires trust and patience and i pray that we have these two virtues to continue our peaceful progress, thanks for ur letter
GEORGE HANNA, Egypt, Feb 14 2011 5:50:00:000PM
Shalom to our cousins in Israel
Thank you very much for your very warm feelings and wishes for the Egyptian people. we loved Anwar Sadat, because he gave us a chance to know how jews around the world are really not that bad, and that we can live together in peace in the same place as brothers and sisters in Humanity. but the core issue for us is not the jews, but it`s Palestine. negotiate peace with the PA, and whatever you guys agree upon, will get our blessings to it. the real problem started in 1948, and Israel has to have the courage to solve the problem it created and give the palestinian part of their rights back, why not accept the Arab peace initiatives with swabs of land for example? we are willing to accept Israel right to live and the aspirations of the jewish people, if Israel will accept and respect the Aspirations of the palestinian people. we are willing to share with you, our oil wealth, we have a lot of common things, we both are funny people who like jokes, both we can advance one another, let`s leave war to the past and start a new page, in which the palestinian people get something back,by then Israel will be the most beloved country in the Arab world. it`s not a precondition from us, but it`s a dream, just like yours, we wish the day will come, when we can only keep busy remember and worship the God of Moses and the God of Israel, instead of fighting in his name. don`t you agree?
Mohamed The Egyptian, Egypt, Feb 14 2011 6:49:00:000AM
Where were you?
Let me just start by saying that I`m an Egyptian Australian! I have lived in Egypt for many years and chose to leave to seek greener postures elsewhere. I just want to ask you one question, where were you all over these years? where was this letter? or did you find it necessary now that the Egyptian people are free to voice your concerns over what might become of this revolution? I really pray that there will be no more wars or conflicts, however you as Israel have to give what you have taken by force or at least some of it so you can live in real peace not the peace that Mubarak and his gang provided!
Sarh Maqsoud, Australia, Feb 14 2011 6:38:00:000AM
Letter to Egypt
Great words that I hope as American/Egyptian can be put to work for the whole area. Ihope that a similar letter and feelings can be directed to the Palestanian people who are living in your midst and even closer to you than the Egyptians.
Moustafa Nour, U.S.A, Feb 14 2011 6:20:00:000AM
Hi Donniel, Thanks for this thoughtful letter. I agree with (almost) every thing you said. We have plenty of work to do internally here in Egypt. Its mind numbing coming to think of it all: Building the institutions from the ground up, eliminating corruption etc etc. I can go on forever. As for our relations with you and the general Israeli populace, I cannot agree more. We have much work to do. This is not the time to exchange charges or succumb to age old feelings of resentment but the time to reach out to one another like you did to us and begin a new relation ship. A relation ship rooted in respect and in a positive vision for the future. A future that affords our children a life free of fear, hatred, suspicion or anger. I too remember the feeling of loss and the anxiety associated with past Egyptian - Israeli wars. Donniel, I am optimistic about the future. You maybe surprised at how much we have in common. The internet now facilitates a dialogue between nations. Perhaps our new dialogue can help us both get over the ideological paralysis that has kept us from making real progress on peace in the region. Thanks Donniel for this letter. I appreciate your wishes for us. Lets keep in touch and work together to resolve our differences and build upon achievements of the past. An Egyptian
Hisham, Egyptian, Feb 14 2011 3:13:00:000AM
thank you so much for the message. I think all the arabs and jews need to reach out to each other and talk, and that`s possible only within democratic systems. Because Dictators and Islammists are blackning Israel and a Jews Image to stay or achieve a long stay in power. I hope Jews and arabs will live in peace forever, they deserve it. Thank You
abdell, Algeria, Feb 14 2011 12:02:00:000AM
Egypt and Peace
You still do not get it. There is no peace because it was imposed on Egyptians by two dictators. Egyptians were wise enough to know that if you remove Egypt from the scene, Israelis would take advantage of the situation and build settlements, not fearing any consequences. That is exactly what happened. You cannot have peace without freeing Palestinians. LET PALESTINIANS GO!
US Citizen, USA, Feb 13 2011 10:20:00:000PM
One ALWAYS has to be fair.
We got your message. But with all due respect to a religious figure, both peoples of Egypt and Israel must promote the values of co-existence in their respective societies, rather than promoting a distorted and incoherent understanding of Biblical/Quranic verses. I guess a more sound understanding would rule out both suicide attacks and deporting current inhabitant to bring in settlers. I guess a more sound understanding would require both sides to admit that no one is superior to the other and no one is “CHOSEN” and that we are all subject to accountability before God according to our deeds.
Ahmed Nassar, USA, Feb 13 2011 9:50:00:000PM
Now, all that said, not everyone is a happy camper. Take this one:
Don`t advice us
WE DON`T NEED YOUR ADVICE , YOU ARE NOT FREIND YOU ARE JUST UNWANTED NEIBOUR ABDSALAM ABDWAHAB
abdsalam, cairo, Feb 14 2011 1:00:00:000AM
But the exchange shows the importance of beginning the process of winning most hearts and minds, and of addressing the core concerns of Egyptians vis a vis the Palestinians in a forthright way.
Remember, this is just the beginning.
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