We Just Want To Live Here A Palestinian Teenager, an Israeli Teenager, An Unlikely Friendship

Amal Rifa'i and Odelia Ainbinder with Sylke Tempel

St. Martin's Griffin

0312318944

9780312318949

Trade Paperback

176 Pages

$14.99

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Palestinian Amal Rifa'i and Israeli Odelia Ainbinder are two teenage girls who live in the same city yet are worlds apart. They met on a student-exchange program to Switzerland. Weeks after they returned, the latest violent Intifada broke out in the fall of 2000.

But two years later, Middle East correspondent Sylke Temple encouraged Amal and Odelia to develop their friendship by facilitating an exchange of their deepest feelings through letters. In their letters, Amal and Odelia discuss the Intifada, their families, traditions, suicide bombers, and military service. They write frankly of their anger, frustration, and fear but also of their hopes and dreams for a brighter future.

Together, Amal and Odelia give us a renewed sense of hope for peace in the Middle East.

REVIEWS

Praise for We Just Want To Live Here

"The openness of these young women, and their families, made it possible for me to delve more deeply into different world views than had ever been possible before."—Sylke Tempel, from her Introduction to the book

"The letters exchanged between Amal and Odelia are profoundly moving. The conflict between Jews and Arabs has been described in countless books and argued in unending polemics, but here, in the letters between these two eighteen-year-old women, an Arab and a Jew, is the heartbreaking essence of the quarrel. It is the battle of two rights; the Palestinians who have been made into semi-strangers in their homeland and the Jews who have no other place which is central to their history, and which is always ready to receive Jews in flights from persecution. In these letters (an idea brilliantly conceived and carried through by Sylke Tempel) Amal and Odelia educate each other. The conclude together that their two peoples cannot continue to make war. They must agree that the are destined, perhaps even condemned, to live together in the land, as first in two separate states and ultimately, in growing comradeship. This is the book for anyone who wants to feel and understand the emotions on both sides. It will become a classic."—Arthur Hertzberg, author of A Jew in America: My Life and a People's Struggle for Identity

"The two authors, now 18, met in Switzerland during an exchange program in 2000, and returned to a Jerusalem soon gripped by the second intifada. After falling out of touch, they exchanged the letters collected in this book from August to November of 2002, cycling through anguish, accusation, artifice, allowance, appreciation—all of the beginnings of real friendship. The book proves to be that rarest of contexts—a place for young women of the Middle East to discuss politics with openness and mutual respect."—Publishers Weekly

"Amal (an 18-year-old Palestinian girl) and Odelia (an 18-year-old Israeli girl) both live in Jerusalem, not far from each other. But their lives are completely different. They had met in Switzerland in a program that attempted to help Palestinians and Israeli teenagers become friends, but the Intifada began soon after their return to Jerusalem and it seemed impossible to find any common ground for continuing their friendship. Sylke Tempel, with her background as a journalist, facilitated the two young women's correspondence, encouraging them to honestly address their feelings about the differences separating them. This book is mainly a compilation of their exchange of letters. The young women are each thoughtful and articulate; each is proud of her heritage. While they get to a place when they can listen to the other, they don't understand how to solve the great dilemmas that they face. Odelia is from a more liberal background than many other Israelis, and Amal is from a more privileged Arab family than most Palestinians, so they each represent perhaps the best shot at reconciliation; and still it seems almost impossible. Young Adults with an interest in the current events in Israel will want to read this . . . Recommended for junior and senior high school students."—Claire Rosser, Kliatt

"This book offers renewed hope for, if not peace, at least a start of communication between the sides."—Ellis Shuman, Israel Insider

"Amal and Odelia write passionately about their different lives and political beliefs . . . This concept is fascinating, and teens will be amazed to read about the opposite lives of Amal and Odelia, particularly those who are interested in or are studying the conflict in the Middle East."—Julie Roberts, VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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Amal Rifa'i, an eighteen-year-old Palestinian, plans to study special education in an Israeli college.

Odelia Ainbinder, an eighteen-year-old Israeli, has started a year of community service with a socialist-Zionist movement. She will soon begin her mandatory military service.

Sylke Tempel, is a Middle East correspondent reporting from Israel. She teaches at the Berlin branch of Stanford University
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Amal Rifa'i and Odelia Ainbinder with Sylke Tempel

  • Amal Rifa'i, an eighteen-year-old Palestinian, plans to study special education in an Israeli college.

    Odelia Ainbinder, an eighteen-year-old Israeli, has started a year of community service with a socialist-Zionist movement. She will soon begin her mandatory military service.

    Sylke Tempel, is a Middle East correspondent reporting from Israel. She teaches at the Berlin branch of Stanford University
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