Dear brother Walid,
I would have liked to have sent you a letter in private, but since I don’t have your personal address and since your first message to me was public, I must reply publicly.
Walid, I want you to know that I love you in our Lord Jesus Christ with an unconditional love.
I don’t understand why you attacked me publicly, since you don’t know me or the work the Lord has given me. I am easy to reach through many channels—agents, publisher, even through my co-writer or through a comment on my blog—and I was deeply hurt that you did not try, because no one has any record of any kind of message from you. Nevertheless, I want you also to know that I forgive you with all my heart, and I hope that you will not suffer too much hurt in any backlash for what you have done.
We are both Palestinians from a Muslim background, and we are both followers of the Prince of peace and love. I propose that we take this opportunity to turn to good what the devil meant for evil. That we show our brothers and sisters and the rest of the world how brothers in Christ resolve their differences. What you and I share in Christ is much stronger than any personal, political, or national agenda. When we surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ, our new identity became one of unconditional love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
Let me share a little of my heart with you, my brother.
As you know, if you read my book, I come from a deep Islamic heritage, from a family that practices, teaches, and spreads Islam. I am a Palestinian who spent several years in Israeli jails, who was tortured and beaten almost to death by angry Israeli soldiers. Yet, Christ pursued me until I “found him” and accepted his challenge to forgive and love my enemies. This was very hard for me to do and took a long time. For nearly ten years, I worked for Israeli intelligence, dealing with cool guys and really bad guys, moderate soldiers and fanatics, humanitarians, and racists. Are there racist Israelis? Yes, there are, just as there are Hamas racists.
During that time, I decided to become a follower of Jesus Christ. As you know, my home of Ramallah is a Christian town. My best friends were Christians, and my dad had a very good relationship with them. But most were cultural Christians who never showed me the love of Christ. Instead, their hypocritical lifestyles were a stumbling block to me.
But when I encountered the love of Jesus and heard his unbelievable philosophy of life, my heart was touched. Unlike you, Walid, I was exposed to the worst examples of Christians, both at home and here in the United States. Men and women who profess to follow Jesus but have no idea of what it means to be free in him, living by God’s grace through his beloved Son.
When I was isolated, alone, poor, broken, disowned by my own family, instead of being embraced by the Church, I was oppressed by my Christian brother’s and sisters, who doubted me and questioned my faith—both in Ramallah and in California. So you can understand that I did not see a promising future with Christians of any denomination.
Despite the rejection and my disappointment and discouragement, I have held onto my faith in Christ alone. He has been the only motivation for everything I have done in my life—in the Shin Bet, in my decision to leave the Shin Bet and come to America, and in everything I have done since I arrived.
Can you imagine what it was like for me, a very young man, in the intense environment of which I described only a tiny fraction in my book? Can you think what it was like for a man in his twenties, going through every kind of mental and spiritual change you can think of, to put away the worst bad guys in Israel and save countless Jewish, Palestinian, and American lives?
And I had no one to share the victories, miracles, and heartbreaks with except my Jesus. Alone with Jesus behind closed doors.
I also learned a lot during those years. I didn’t have a father to teach me things I needed to know about life. My father loves me, and I love him. But he has spent most of his life in prison for his beliefs. So I raised myself, as well as my brothers and sisters.
I learned on my own, the very hard way, that extremist Israelis were no less dangerous than extremist Palestinians. Israelis are not the problem, and Palestinians are not the problem. Extremism is the problem. A racist Palestinian is no different than a racist Israeli. Racism is the problem. Greed and corruption are the problems, not greedy or corrupt Israelis or Palestinians. Gonen and I used to talk with other Shin Bet agents, what if we swap Palestinian leaders and Israeli leaders? Will there be peace? And we all agreed that there would be no difference, because they would still fight for their selfish goals, because they were selfish and corrupt, not because they were Jews or Arabs.
We are all human. We all have the same enemies. And we all suffer from the same problems.
My experiences caused me to question my religion, to question everything about it. And I discovered that religions are dangerous. Religion steels freedom, kills creativity, turns us into slaves and against one another. Yes, I am talking about Christianity as well as Islam. Most Christians I have seen seem to have missed the point that Jesus redeemed us from religion. Religion is nothing but man’s attempts to get back to God. Whether it is Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, animism, any ism. Religion can’t save mankind. Only Jesus could save mankind through his death and resurrection. And Jesus is the only way to God.
A week after I told Haaretz journalist Avi Issacharoff my story, he called and said I forgot to ask you about your denomination. And he was surprised when I told him I don’t have any denomination, only my identity in Christ.
This is why I don’t accept financial support from anyone, even when I was hungry and homeless. Yes, people sent me checks. And I forwarded every penny to churches and charities, so that no religious group or political party could impose their agendas on the bridge-building work God has given me to do.
You and I both escaped the bondage of a scary, dark captivity, brother Walid. Let’s be grateful for it. We have no reason to fight one another. I personally have nothing left to lose. I have already lost the most important things on earth. And my reputation is torn apart everyday by one side that hates me because they think I am a Zionist and the other side that hates me because they think I am a Palestinian extremist.
I am neither. I try to love all people without expecting anything from anyone, the way the Lord Jesus Christ loves me.
We live in a world that is full of deception, doubt, fear, and hopelessness. People have enough bad news. They need hope and love. And our duty to our people in Israel, the Palestinian territories, and the rest of the world is to show them Christ’s love and give them his hope.
Part of my message to the world is in the love between me and Sarah Stern—founder of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, former national policy coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America, and director of the Office of Legislative and Governmental Affairs of the National Jewish Congress—who calls me her son … a Jewish mother and a Palestinian son! It is the love between me and Gonen ben Itzhak—once Jewish intelligence agent/handler and Palestinian prisoner, now brothers who lay down our lives for one another.
What could bring us together? Only the love of God. And I pray that the love of God will bring you and me together, brother Walid.
l love you in Christ,
Mosab Hassan Yousef
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