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Now We’re Talking

Egyptians and Israelis begin hopeful talks around a virtual table convened by Donniel Hartman

In his recent column “ A Letter to the Egyptian People ,” Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman , President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, voiced a widely held sentiment that has been heard since the recent uprising of the Egyptian people: that many national issues would most likely look very different if left to the populace.
The exciting news is that since suggesting that the state of Israeli-Egyptian relations could change if the people got a chance to talk, dozens of Egyptian citizens have weighed in to dialogue with Donniel Hartman via comments sent to the Hartman Institute’s website.
"This column has really struck a nerve," said Laura Gilinski, VP Public Relations at the Shalom Hartman Institute. "Website traffic from Egypt, which is usually negligible, has risen to almost 10% of our total since this column was posted to the Institute’s social media platforms.”
The unique virtual dialogue struck a nerve in Israel, too. Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers, featured both Donniel’s column and the comments from Egyptians in a lengthy article on Tuesday, February 20. ( Click here to read a translation of the Yedioth article.)
Here are just a few of the comments. The rest appear at the bottom of Donniel’s article:
"Ramy Hussein (Egypt)", who wrote that he fought for Egyptian democracy and welfare in Tahrir square, said:"I have always acknowledged Israel as a wonderful state which will–one day in the future–be an essential element for the development of the Middle East. I still recognize and admire my country’s first neighbor… and am sure that the future has more joy for both of our nations in "warm peace." Cold peace isn’t enough for me anymore. We will work together for the good of our people. Shalom from Egypt."
In his column, Donniel Hartman reminisced about feelings of fear, awe, and then affection aroused by Egypt’s presence as a neighbor of Israel.
"As a teenager I remember the feelings of fear that you aroused when your armies crossed the Suez Canal in 1973 and my country’s very existence was in doubt. As a soldier in the tank corps I remember the awesome beauty of and the strategic comfort that the Sinai desert under Israel’s control afforded us. I remember falling head over heels in love with President Anwar Sadat, when he came to Israel seeking peace.”
"Mohammed the Egyptian" replied that Egyptians, too, loved Sadat: "He gave us a chance to know that 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."After suggesting practical measures for obtaining peace with the Palestinian nation, Mohammed said,"We wish the day will come, when we can only…remember and worship the God of Moses and the God of Israel, instead of fighting in his name, don’t you agree?"
Donniel Hartman is realistic enough to know that not everything can or will change overnight.
"I hope that our two peoples, living in vibrant democracies, will find new ways to reach out to and respect each other. This does not mean that we will always agree. It is likely that each one of us will pursue policies, externally or internally, that may differ from the other’s national interest or even moral sensibilities.
So where will Israelis and Egyptians continue their dialogue until they can all sit around a table together?
"Hisham – An Egyptian" wrote: "As for our relations with you and the general Israeli populace…I too remember the feeling of loss and anxiety associated with past Egyptian-Israeli wars. Donniel, I am optimistic about the future. You may be 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. Let’s keep in touch and work together to resolve our differences and build upon achievements of the past."

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