Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 10:09 UK

Sderot and Gaza: third letters

Anav Silverman, a young Israeli woman who works in Sderot and Mona Yousef, a young Palestinian woman living in northern Gaza, exchange their third and final letters via the BBC website.

Mona is an English Literature graduate who works as a translator. Anav is studying English literature and political science at Bar Ilan university. She works part time in Sderot's media centre, just a few kilometres from Mona.


Dear Mona,

Anav Silverman
Anav was born in Israel, grew up in the US, and returned to Israel in 2004

How are you doing?

I read your second letter with interest, noting that your comparison of Heathcliff with Israel is inaccurate and does not reflect the complete reality of the conflict.

The first residents to establish the city of Sderot in 1951 were Persian, Kurdish and Moroccan Jews who fled the Arab countries after centuries of persecution.

Many North African Jews were either expelled or forced to leave by the Arab leadership when Israel became a state.

They came seeking a better life in the Jewish homeland, working a barren land to provide a life of security and peace for their children. In fact many of these Jewish residents were on very friendly terms with the Palestinians living in Gaza.

And they and their children, grandchildren, and even great-grand children are ironically the victims of this rocket terror today!

I came to Sderot in August 2007. I feel that my life has changed dramatically since coming here.

Most of my life revolves around the situation here in Sderot

First I love that Sderot is a small town, a close knit community, where everyone knows everyone. When you take a taxi here to someone's house, you just tell the taxi driver the surname of the family, and he usually knows who they are and brings you right there.

Most of my life revolves around the situation here in Sderot. I feel that many people, even my friends, don't always understand just how much people here are suffering from the rockets.

There seems to be more homes damaged every week. It is difficult visiting the homeless families who must look for a new place to stay while waiting - sometimes even a year - before their home is repaired by our government.

Why do you think Hamas consistently targets Sderot, considering that Sderot is within the pre-1967 borders as appears in the UN Partition plan of 1947?

Israel closes the borders and establishes checkpoints solely to prevent Palestinian terrorists from entering into Israel.

Unfortunately, many innocent Palestinians must pay the price for those Palestinians who commit acts of terror against innocent Israelis.

It is important to state that the Jewish homeland was not suddenly remembered by the Jewish people after 2,000 years

Don't you think that it is always the poor and the working class citizens who pay the price for the political gambles and ideologies of their political leadership?

I also wondered what you meant when you wrote that the UN handles the conflict unfairly. I've always been under the impression that the UN has been a great help to Palestinians but you would know better living under their care.

For me it is important to state that the Jewish homeland was not suddenly remembered by the Jewish people after 2,000 years.

The land of Israel has always been the centre of our ancient Jewish traditions: in our holidays, prayers and the Hebrew Bible.

I like Shakespeare too. King Lear is my favourite play. I love how Shakespeare explores the meaning of morality and truth through characters like King Lear.

It is now exam season at my university so I've been quite busy studying. I have an exam next Sunday on Milton's Paradise Lost. I only hope to pass!

I look forward to hearing from you again.

All the best,

Anav


Dear Anav,

Mona Yousef
Mona's family came from what is now the Israeli city of Ashkelon

I hope you did well in your exams.

Who writes history? The winners of course. After centuries of persecution!

I'll try to avoid restating history, and concentrate on a real story.

My grandmother went back to Ashkelon [the Israeli city where Mona's family lived before 1948] in 1967, when Israel opened the borders for Palestinians to visit their homes.

She met a Yemeni Jewish woman there - and asked her why she had come to live in Ashkelon.

The Jewish woman said she had never wanted to leave her home, her community and her peaceful life in Yemen, but she was forced to leave by the Yemeni government, as were other Jews.

Everyone in the world is seeking a better life. But is this a justification to separate others from their lands?

Dear Anav, I respect you very much and appreciate your patriotism. You are really a good citizen. You left your country, America, land of dreams, to serve your people.

But I think one must not ignore others' suffering.

You talk of people in Sderot whose homes have been damaged by terrorist rockets.

Well, thousands of Palestinians have had their homes totally demolished by Israeli forces over the past few years.

Is this to prevent "terrorism"? Can making thousands of people homeless prevent "terrorism"?

Here's another personal anecdote: my cousins who live in Saudi Arabia came to Gaza four years ago, to go to university.

This exchange with you has been one of the most interesting experiences of my life

They have now finished their last term and they cannot return to their family. Can preventing people seeing their families prevent "terrorism"?

I hate this word because people use it to mean different things.

You say it is "the poor and the working class citizens who pay the price for the gambles and ideologies of their political leadership".

This may be true in many cases, but not in ours. All of us Palestinians have the same belief: this is our land, and everyone has his share which was taken by the Israelis.

I'll explain what I meant about the UN handling the conflict unfairly: when an Israeli is killed, the UN condemns it as a terrorist attack. When five Palestinians are killed by the occupation forces, it is acceptable. It is called self-defence!

Tell me how many UN resolutions concerning Palestine have been implemented? According to the UN, we have the right to return to our homes. Yet to this day, nothing has happened.

I would like to know after our three letters, what we have in common to share.

We have opposite ideologies and sometimes contradicting versions of the same history, yet one land to fight on. Again and again we forget that we are human beings.

Don't you think history is full of lies? You and I can read something completely different about the same event.

Since this will be the last letter, I would like to say that this exchange with you has been one of the most interesting experiences of my life.

I hope you did well in the Milton exam.

Best regards

Mona


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