I had hoped to publish a version of this letter in our local newspaper, but that never happened. I tried contacting my local Islamic Center several times, but they have not returned either phone calls or emails. Still I would like someone to read this, so you are it.
An Open Letter to My Muslim Neighbors
My heart is broken over the tragedy of Gaza. With you I am sickened by the mounting death toll and the rising number of wounded. And as a Jew who loves Israel I am sourly troubled by the fate of both our peoples.
I have friends in Israel living under daily threat of Hamas bombings, and yet I do not pretend to know the fear and anger that may be tearing at your hearts as well. I have been to Israel many times, and I take great pride in her creativity and democracy. I have also visited Palestine and feel deep sorrow over the harsh conditions imposed by Israeli occupation. I love my people and celebrate her accomplishments, but that cannot blind me to the pain and suffering her policies cause.
There is anger, frustration, and hatred running so deep in the fabric of so many lives in the Middle East that it is easy to excuse one side and demonize the other. But to do so only perpetuates the madness into which so much of the Middle East is spiraling.
The horror of violence, the injustice of occupation, the wickedness of terror, and even the faintest promise of peace and reconciliation should motivate Jews and Muslims to reach out to one another, to come together to share our fears, our grief, our anger, and our hope, and to discover in this sharing a common humanity that can provide us with a foundation for cooperation.
As children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah Arabs and Jews are blood cousins, sharing a common call to justice. As Jews and Muslims we are spiritual cousins, sharing a common vision of Allah/Yah as The Merciful, and The Compassionate. Compassion is at the root of both our traditions because compassion is at the heart of God. Justice and compassion together are what Judaism and Islam are all about. It must be what we Jews and Muslims are about as well.
I am sending you this letter as a gesture of friendship. I extend open hands and not clenched fists. I ask that whatever insanity takes hold in the Middle East you and I maintain sanity; that whatever evil is perpetrated in the name of God you and I see such acts as blasphemy; that no matter what words are used to excuse injustice, violence, terror, and exploitation you and I will not be taken in by them and will continue to stand for justice; that no matter how hard hearts become, you and I will forever soften them with compassion.
The Prophet Moses (PBUH) taught, “Justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). Let us pursue it together.