Letters to Talia, a rich dialogue of actual letters sent between a religious Israeli soldier and a secular teenage kibbutz girl, provides a glimpse into the tensions that separated religious and secular Israeli cultures in the 1970s. Through this honest, open, and passionate exchange of ideas, Dov and Talia come to understand one another, and the cultures they each represent.
Their two-year exchange began before they had ever met, when Talia wrote to Dov with questions she had about religious Jewish culture. Dov responded dutifully to her sharp — and seemingly confrontational — questions with a gentleness, sincerity, and frankness that set the stage for an enlightening exchange of ideas ranging from Jewish dietary laws to individualism, love, and family purity.
Dov’s responses draw heavily on ancient Jewish texts (all of which are explained in the footnotes), and are augmented by the writings of modern-day secular thinkers. Dov, who was ultimately killed in the Yom Kippur War (1973), is the quintessential Yeshiva student in his unwavering commitment to Jewish law and ideology, while at the same time immersing himself in the writings of contemporary writers like Eric Fromm and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Talia’s questions are driven by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and an intellectual curiosity that highlights her commitment for truth. She thoughtfully probes Dov’s responses, and is unafraid to voice her discontent when she disagrees with him or is offended by his forthright statements of ideology.
Letters to Talia is highly recommended for readers of both religious and non-religious backgrounds alike, as it exemplifies how a respectful dialogue can lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of another’s culture and background.