I first met Mosab Hassan Yousef, the oldest son of one of the founders of the Hamas, by phone in 2009. We spoke several times for several hours, getting to know one another and taking each other's measure. Later, we corresponded a bit by email and finally met for coffee. It was an unlikely encounter, to be sure. How often, after all, does a former aide to an Israeli Prime Minister and a former aide to the leader of a terrorist movement meet and become friends. But we have. And the reason is simple: we have both been transformed by the love of Jesus Christ.
Mosab was raised a Radical Muslim. He believed "Islam is the answer, and jihad is the way." He was poised to become the future leader of Hamas. As such, he would have become one of Israel's most dangerous and wanted enemies. But something happened along the way that changed everything. Mosab came to the stunning conclusion that Hamas was evil, that Islam was wrong, that suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks were abhorrent, that Israelis were his friends not his enemies, and that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. In short, Mosab has become a Revivalist. Today he believes "Islam is not the answer, jihad is not the way; Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus." What's more, he believes that the only way for Israelis and Palestinians to truly find peace with each other is to first find peace with God by embracing the Prince of Peace -- Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem; Jesus, who was raised in Nazareth; Jesus who died on the cross in Jerusalem, and rose again, and is coming back to the Holy Land soon.
How this transformation happened -- and the choices Mosab has made as a result -- is the subject of one of the most powerful books I have ever read. SON OF HAMAS, written by Mosab and journalist Ron Brackin, is part spy thriller, part spiritual testimony of a young man leaving terror for redemption. It is a must-read book and one can only hope it becomes the basis of a major Hollywood motion picture.
In just the first week since the book was released, Mosab has received enormous media coverage -- Haaretz, Ynet News, CNN, Fox, NBC, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and Forbes, among many others. Most of the reports and interviews have focused on the intelligence intrigue of how Mosab became a double agent for Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency against Hamas, helping to stop scores of terrorist attacks and saving countless Jewish and Arab lives as a result. Unfortunately, most of the reports have glossed over the spiritual side of Mosab's journey. The good news is the book covers both sides of Mosab's life in gripping details.
Here are a few tidbits worth considering:
* Mosab hated the Jews. He cheered when Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, and was disappointed when Israel wasn't destroyed. He wanted Hamas to seize back all the land of "Palestine" from the Jews. But in 1996, at the age of 18, he was arrested by the Israelis for buying automatic weapons to kill Jews. He was sent to an Israeli prison. There he was stunned at what he saw: Muslims torturing Muslims. "I had never heard a human being scream like that guy did. What could he have done to deserve that." (p.97)
* "Nearby, fellow Hamas members -- fellow Arabs, fellow Palestinians, fellow Muslims -- shoved needles under [his friend] Akel's fingernails." (p. 100)
* "Every day there was screaming; every night, torture. Hamas was torturing its own people! As much as I wanted to, I simply could not find a way to justify that." (p. 102)
* Months later, after being released from Israeli prison, Mosab was walking past the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Someone -- not knowing who he was -- invited him to a Bible study. Curious, he attended. They studied the New Testament, and gave Mosab a copy to read for himself. "I began at the beginning [in the Gospel According to Matthew], and when I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I thought, Wow, this guy Jesus is really impressive! Everything He says is beautiful! I couldn't put the book down. Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope. Then I read this: `You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.' (Matthew 5:43-45)....I was thunderstruck by these words. Never before had I heard anything like this, but I knew that this was the message I had been searching for all my life." (p.122)
* "For years I had struggled to know who my enemy was, and I had looked for enemies outside of Islam and Palestine. But I suddenly realized that the Israelis were not my enemies. Neither was Hamas nor my uncle Ibrahim [one of the torturers in prison] nor the kid who beat me with the butt of his M16....I understood that enemies were not defined by nationality, religion, or color. I understood that we all share the same common enemies: greed, pride, and all the bad ideas and the darkness of the devil that live inside us....Five years earlier, I would have read the words of Jesus and thought, What an idiot! and thrown the Bible away....But now, everything Jesus said on the pages of this book made perfect sense to me. Overwhelmed, I started to cry." (p.122-123)
** Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times best-selling author of Epicenter 2.0: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future
and Inside the Revolution: How the Followers of Jihad, Jefferson & Jesus Are Battling to Dominate the Middle East and Transform