The Christmas spirit is not reflected in terrorist actions taking place around the world. It’s reassuring to meet a young man from Ramallah, raised to be a terrorist, but who but chose a different path.
Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder and leader of Hamas. While living in the West Bank and serving as his father’s lieutenant, this brave young man for several years was an Israeli informant. The intelligence he provided the Shin Bet (Israeli secret service) foiled would be suicide bombers and saved potentially hundreds of lives, including his father’s.
Mosab’s story was portrayed in the gripping documentary The Green Prince. It won an Audience Award at Sundance this year and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in January. “The Green Prince” (Mosab’s nickname among Israelis) recaps the relationship between Mosab and his Israeli Shin Bet “handler” Gonen Ben-Itzhak.
Recently, Mosab told his story to a packed house at Temple Israel in Detroit. I had the privilege of meeting him at a smaller gathering that day.
As a young man, Mosab was conflicted. He loved his family yet was troubled by the violence he saw practiced by Hamas. Introduced to what he calls “Christ consciousness,” he converted to Christianity. He views his chosen religion as one of “light and tolerance.” Members of Hamas, he believes, misinterpret Islam as justification for “darkness and violence.”
In his book, Mosab writes, “I had money, power and position in my former life, but what I really wanted was freedom. And that meant… leaving behind hate, prejudice and a desire for revenge.
“The message of Jesus—love your enemies—is what finally set me free. It no longer mattered who my friends were or who my enemies were. I was supposed to love them all.”
In 2007, Mosab’s request for political asylum in the US was denied. He was threatened with deportation. Knowing the peril his friend faced, his Israeli manager revealed his own identity to testify for him at an immigration hearing.
Concerned about retribution from Hamas, Mosab lives a nomadic life in the US. Asked where he resides, he points to his forehead. “In my head,” he says. “At a friend’s house, in a motel, on a beach, in a jungle.”
Mosab’s parents, 5 brothers and 3 sisters have disowned him.
Gracious and soft spoken (and handsomer than the actor who played him in The Green Prince), Mosab adored his grandmother. She died while he was living in the US and couldn’t risk returning for her funeral. One of his sisters was present at their grandmother’s hospital bed. Before she stopped speaking to her brother, she told him that on her death bed their grandmother kept saying his name.
The thought brings him comfort. “I like to think she understood what I did,” he says.