In midsummer of 1981, the American novelist Meyer Levin, author of The Old Bunch, Citizens, and Compulsion, passed on in Israel. During his last weeks in the Holy Land, Levin had occasion to share living quarters briefly with an Israeli Arab high school student. The boy, an avid reader and earnest scholar of English, plied the 75-year-old writer with questions about American life and literature. Before parting, he asked for a memento of the encounter.

In careful block-printed letters, Levin penned him this note:

''For Sadik, of the mind with curiosity and soul with good will:

''May you read and study and seek how to know in yourself what is true, what is doubtful or untrue. For this is wisdom. And your name, Sadik, means with us, your Hebrew brothers, the highest wisdom and goodness. May you attain this in your life.

''We have by chance passed a little time in the same room; we pass our lives in the same world. A good life to you, my son.''

There followed the choppy scrawl, ''Meyer Levin.''

That signature, from a man whose work has been praised by Thomas Mann and Ernest Hemingway, will mean much to Sadik. Over the years, Meyer's last testament of human brotherhood may come to mean even more.

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