Cover image for If you could be my friend : letters of Mervet Akram Sha'ban and Galit Fink
If you could be my friend : letters of Mervet Akram Sha'ban and Galit Fink
Sha'ban, Mervet Akram.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Si tu veux être mon amie. English
Publication Information:
New York : Orchard Books, 1998.
Physical Description:
118 pages : map ; 22 cm
Contains the correspondence between two girls, one an Israeli and the other a Palestinian, from August 1988 until their meeting in October 1991. Includes a brief history of their two peoples.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 6.3 4.0 28578.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS119.75 .S4413 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Their homes are only ten miles apart -- Galit, an Israeli Jew, lives in Jerusalem, and Mervet lives in a nearby Palestinian refuge camp -- yet an enormous political gulf separates their communities, and decades of mutual distrust divide their peoples. Using a go-between to transport their letters, the two girls write to each other about their homes, their families, and their dreams for the future. They both long for peace. But as their correspondence stretches over years of bloody fighting, it's clear that neither can agree on how it should be achieved. Presented with brief commentaries that set the immediate context for each letter, an historical overview, and a glossary, these letters eloquently document the real-life costs of growing up in a divided land.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-9. Letters exchanged by an Israeli girl, Galit, and a Palestinian girl, Mervet, between 1988 and 1991, make up the core of this book, which was originally published in France in 1992. Commentary by editor Boudalika, whose documentary about the two girls was shown on French television, sets the letters within the context of the times. The book ends with a long historical overview by an Israeli member of Amnesty International and a nine-page glossary, with detailed explanations. The political discussion is already out of date, and there are far too many bits and pieces; in fact, it all reads like notes for a book. Still, each piece is interesting in itself, and as the girls share their family stories and plan to meet at last in Jerusalem, the discovery of their connections is clearly heartfelt, especially since there is no rosy togetherness and they don't hide their anger and trouble. There is little else available for young readers about this region, and the focus on two individual teenagers personalizes the conflict and helps subvert the stereotypes. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

When journalist Litsa Boudalika proposed that Mervet, a Palestinian, and Galit, an Israeli, correspond and meet, a tenuous relationship began between the two 12-year-olds, born of letters they wrote from 1988 to 1991. Their correspondence became the basis for a 1991 French documentary. At first, the girls' eagerness spills over into their correspondence ( "I know very little about your life, but I feel friendly toward you," writes Mervet). They trade stories about their families and schools, favorite music and food. But just as the two open up, bitter political developments‘the Intifada and Gulf War‘interfere. Before long, they, like their parents, become less interested in building bridges than fortifying defenses. "I thought things could work out, but I was wrong.... You may understand, but you are still an Arab. Because of this, I don't think we can be friends one day," writes Galit in one of her last letters. What might have been demonstrated smoothly in the documentary‘the girls' fragile relationship contrasted with graphic footage of war and conflict‘is here reduced to an intrusive literary device: the letters abruptly come to a halt every few pages so the author can intersperse terse accounts of concurrent events. Though necessary to explain the girls' increasingly hostile tone, these intrusions remind readers of just how manufactured the whole prickly "friendship" is, and when the girls finally unite, their meeting takes place offstage (described by Boudalika). The book concludes with a dry epilogue explaining the roots of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and a glossary. Still, readers willing to forgive the format's shortcomings will glean some insight into the lives of a Palestinian and Israeli child, growing up in a climate of animosity. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-10-This collection of letters written between 1988 and 1991-the time of the Palestinian intifada in Israel-consists of the correspondence between a Palestinian Arab girl living in a refugee camp located between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and a Jewish girl living in Jerusalem. The letters detail the ups and downs of an emerging and struggling friendship between two girls whose peoples are fighting each other for the same piece of homeland, and they clearly reflect each girl's hope for peace and her deeply felt suspicions of the other. After three years of corresponding, they eventually overcome the obstacles of bloody political events and their own families' concerns and meet in a neutral setting. The book concludes with a historical overview with background on the events leading to the establishment of the state of Israel and the resistance of her Arab neighbors to the new nation. Unfortunately, the lives of Mervet and Galit are only outlined through their correspondence and there is no follow-up to what happened to them after they met in 1991; young readers will have many questions that are not answered in this personalized slice of history. Although the intifada backdrop to the letters makes the book more of a historical footnote than a reflection of current reality, the actual letters in their simplicity and directness starkly indicate the wide bridge that needs to be crossed if peace is to come to the region.-Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.