Haaretz Weekend Magazine has a fantastic profile coming up on Masab Yousef, whose father is the top Hamas leader in the West Bank. The younger Yousef, who once assisted his father politically, has moved to California and converted to Christianity. If that didn’t stop you dead in your tracks, this will: “Send regards to Israel, I miss it. I respect Israel and admire it as a country.”
A preview of the profile was published online today, and it’s clear Yousef is new wine in new wineskins. Thanks to Big Mike for sending this along. I can’t wait to read the rest of the article, but I’ll have to. Hopefully this excerpt will hold us over until then:
“I know that I’m endangering my life and am even liable to lose my father, but I hope that he’ll understand this and that God will give him and my family patience and willingness to open their eyes to Jesus and to Christianity. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to Palestine and to Ramallah with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God.”
Nor does he attempt to hide his affection for Israel, or his abhorrence of everything representing the surroundings in which he grew up: the nation, the religion, the organization.
“Send regards to Israel, I miss it. I respect Israel and admire it as a country,” he says.
“You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death.”
Is that the justification for the suicide attacks?
“More than that. An entire society sanctifies death and the suicide terrorists. In Palestinian culture a suicide terrorist becomes a hero, a martyr. Sheikhs tell their students about the ‘heroism of the shaheeds.’”
And yet, in spite of the criticism of the place he left, California can’t make the longings disappear.
“I miss Ramallah,” he says. “People with an open mind. ... I mainly miss my mother, my brothers and sisters, but I know that it will be very difficult for me to return to Ramallah soon.”
It would be a mistake to see this as some sort of watershed moment. But it is a prime example of the power of religion, both for good and evil. We are so moved philosophically by He whom we place our faith in. And history offers testimony to how different visions of one God can produce a lot, a lot of bloodshed.
Yusef is Arabic for Joseph, but because of that guy who wore the technicolor dreamcoat it seems an even more fitting new name for this stranger in a stranger land.