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by Kerry Olitzky and Inas Younis

After many years, Leila is back in her birthplace, Jerusalem, and she’s on a mission. Before she left for the Holy Land, Leila promised that she’d say a healing prayer for her best friend back home, even though Leila is Muslim and has never prayed in a Christian church. While making her way through the crooked streets in the Old City of Jerusalem, Leila meets Asma and Rachel, two girls also trying to find holy sites of religions that are different from their own. Together, they’ll discover that Jerusalem is perhaps the most special and welcoming place in the world.

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Press Kit


Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook

Pages:  32

ISBN PB: 978-1-953021-85-4

ISBN HC: 978-1-953021-84-7

ISBN EB: 978-1-953021-86-1

Release Date: 9/26/22


“Kerry Olitzky and Inas Younis’s Strangers in Jerusalem evokes a possibility, one that we pray for when we look at our children and grandchildren. If they could visit one another’s holy places and pray for each other, instead of hate, we would all be healed.”

—Rabbi Burt Visotzky, director, Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary

“An endearing story of interfaith harmony that beautifully illustrates that bonds of peace and understanding are strongest when forged in childhood and by parents who want their children to honor and respect what makes us different.”

Sabeeha Rehman, interfaith activist and blogger, co-author, with Walter Ruby, of We Refuse to be Enemies: How Muslims and Jews Can Make Peace, One Friendship at a Time

“In a world that seems to be ripping itself apart with hatred and violence, Inas Younis and Kerry Olitzky offer readers of Strangers in Jerusalem a lovely, beautifully illustrated vision of hope and kindness right in the middle of a city marked by century after century of drama, dispute, and even despair. This is a simple story about trust, faith, and the unspoiled goodness of humanity as experienced by three young girls. May those girls become models for how people of every faith tradition should live.”

—Bill Tammeus, journalist and author (or co-author) of seven books, the latest of which is Love, Loss and Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety

Strangers in Jerusalem is a heartwarming, community-building tale of faith and friendship.”

Huda Al-Marashi, author of First Comes Marriage: My Not-So Typical American Love Story

“A beautifully written and illustrated story about three girls, Strangers in Jerusalem offers a hopeful vista into a world that is all too often marred by conflict and violence. Children will be entranced by this book, and parents will be grateful that Rabbi Olitzky and Inas Younis have provided this inspiring and optimistic vision of a world that can be. A perfect gift for the children of your friends and relatives!”

Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion 

 “Through its beautiful narrative of friendship, mutual respect, and curiosity, Strangers in Jerusalem reminds us of our common humanity, a value that, if prioritized, can set a new tone of tolerance in the Middle East for future generations.”

—Rabbi Yehuda Sarna; executive director, The Bronfman Center at NYU; university chaplain, Global Spiritual Life at NYU; adjunct associate professor, NYU Wagner; co-founder, Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership at NYU

“A moving story of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian young girls confronting fears and anxieties, yet embracing friendship in the city of Jerusalem—setting an example for all on how to engage and humanize the other. Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Inas Younis, both interfaith leaders, show us what is possible when the world is seen through the eyes of innocent children.”

Majid Alsayegh, chairman of the board, Dialogue Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Inas Younis’s book, Strangers in Jerusalem, is a thoughtful and loving tribute to love of our neighbor, to innocence, and indeed to hope. Three beautiful little girls—Rachel, Asma, and Leila—show all of us how to truly demonstrate respect and affection for each other, including in the midst of the myriad complications of life in the holy land. This delightful book—beautifully illustrated by Maryana Kachmar—brings to life the heartfelt belief that we are all God’s children, and that God loves those who cherish, strive, and work for peace.”

Suhail A. Khan, religious freedom advocate


Meet the Authors

Kerry Olitzky, an ordained rabbi, was named one of the leading fifty rabbis of North America by Newsweek. He is the former longtime executive director of Big Tent Judaism (formerly Jewish Outreach Institute) and served on the faculty and administration of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. He is the author of over seventy-five books and hundreds of articles in a variety of fields, including spirituality, healing, and religious practice. His most recent children’s books are Where’s the Potty on this Ark? and The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story.




Inas Younis was born in Mosul, Iraq, and emigrated to the United States as a child in 1982. She is an independent journalist and commentator and has been widely published in various magazines and websites. She currently writes for the Kansas Reflector and is a community engagement representative for the Kansas City Beacon. Inas is an alum of the University of Southern California’s American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. She also sits on the board of the Faith Always Wins Foundation and is vice-chair of the Friends of Overland Park Arts.

Meet the Illustrator

Maryana Kachmar-Flyah was born in Lviv, Ukraine in 1983. She is a certified Master of Sacred Art, and the founder of the Christian children’s magazines Angel and Flashlight, where she has worked as editor and artist. She has also illustrated many children’s books. Maryana loves the smell of flowers in the spring and appreciates every moment given to her by God. She is the mother of three cheerful and energetic children, who inspire her daily with new pictures!

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