Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 11:27 UK

Sderot and Gaza: Second letters

Anav Silverman, a young Israeli woman who works in Sderot and Mona Yousef, a young Palestinian woman in Gaza, exchange letters for a second time via the BBC website.

Mona is an English Literature graduate who works as a freelance translator in the northern Gaza Strip. Anav is studying English literature and political science at Bar Ilan university. She works part time in Sderot's media centre.


Dear Mona,

Anav Silverman

I hope it is more quiet for you when you read this.

War is devastating to all and I have been going through this hellish experience myself this past year.

I want to tell you that from my side in Sderot I see the same kind of pain, trauma and death that you described in your email.

Hamas's resistance is not "symbolic" for the Israelis living in southern Israel.

Take Osher Twito. This eight year-old boy can no longer walk because shrapnel from a rocket explosion severed his left leg, which had to be amputated.

Sderot was once a city of 24,000 people. These "homemade rockets" have forced close to 5,000 people to relocate elsewhere in Israel over the past seven years.

Although the weaponry of Palestinian terror groups may be crude and inexpensive, it has wreaked devastation for the Israelis in this region, as any advanced military weaponry would.

I know this may be difficult to believe based on the way Israel is presented in the Arab world, but the Israeli army does not intend nor want to kill innocent Palestinian women and children. The IDF enters Gaza to eliminate the terrorists who terrorise Israelis.

I feel your pain at the innocent lives taken in this warfare. And remember that most of the rockets are launched from civilian areas like schoolyards and hospitals.

Do you believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in this land? Do you recognise Israel as a Jewish state?

It is very difficult to target Palestinian terrorists when they use women and children as human shields.

Hamas times its rocket fire so that Jewish children will be the most likely targets. It fires Qassam rockets early in the morning when they go to school and in the afternoon when their parents pick them up.

This "symbolic" war by Hamas is not being waged solely against our soldiers, but against us - the Jewish people.

You say your family originally came from Ashkelon. I am curious, where did your great-great-great grandparents originally come from? How long had they been here?

I too have family who were displaced. My grandmother left Poland because of the growing fear of Nazi control. She managed to escape to Israel but her entire family was killed in the Holocaust before they could join her. She never went back to Poland.

Do you believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in this land? Do you recognise Israel as a Jewish state?

I know that Ashkelon to you is al-Majdal. If the Hebrew names of these cities are not recognised and the Jewish presence in this land not tolerated among the Arabs - how do you conceive that there will be peace with Israel?

Outside the conflict, I was wondering what English books you like reading? This year, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, is one of my favourites. I can't decide if Heathcliff is truly a villain!

Best wishes and keep well,

Anav


Dear Anav,

Mona Yousef

It is pleasure to write to you again.

Yes, it is more quiet now in terms of military attacks.

Heathcliff is a victim of his tyrannical society, but when he is in power, he becomes a victimiser himself. Do you notice, the victim always becomes the bully when he has control?

I don't care where my great-great-great grandparents came from, or when. History is full of migration and the movement of peoples, including yours.

After three thousand years living around the world, suddenly you remembered your homeland!

You said your family came to Palestine because of the spread of Nazism, to escape the Holocaust.

Why should we Palestinians have to pay the price of others' crimes? If the Nazis killed your grandmother's family, why do you kill us in return?

I don't mean you personally of course, but the Israeli state.

If we had had advanced weaponry... it would have become a war between two nations - with no mention of terrorism

How can I accept the existence of a state which has occupied our land for 40 years, an occupation which has resulted in so many Palestinians being killed?

On terrorism... why is launching "crude and inexpensive" weaponry on the children of Sderot considered terrorism, when F16s and Mercava tanks killing children inside their homes in Gaza is not?

Samar and Samah were two sisters, aged 13 and 23, who were together at home in Gaza when an Israeli shell killed them last month. They weren't resisting anyone.

I think the term "terrorism" is connected to a level of sophistication in the weapons used. If we had had advanced weaponry, this whole thing would have been managed differently. It would have become a war between two nations - with no mention of terrorism.

Another point, what do you call the prevention of food and medical supplies entering the Gaza Strip? Is this not a kind of terrorism?

Peace is always possible everywhere if attention is paid to it, and if rights are returned to people who have lost them. I believe in peace, as we are exchanging letters.

I think peace is what makes us human. You, the Jew, and I, the Arab Muslim, are humans, so there is place for peace.

But can you tell me why Israel closes the borders and prevents people from travelling?

Don't you think that the international community (the UN) handles the conflict unfairly - and has actually made it worse?

Do you see this as a struggle for survival, between me and you?

My favourite English novel is Heart of Darkness for Joseph Conrad. Don't you think, colonialism in all ages has the same ideology?

Do you like Shakespeare? Hamlet is one of my favourites. Every time I read it I discover that he has a new problem.

Best wishes,

Mona


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