Once an Arafat Man
A couple of weekends back, I was privileged to meet a most improbable minister for Christ. His story is an incredible testimony to the Grace of God. He is a former sniper, bodyguard and chauffeur for PLO terrorist leader Yasser Arafat, but has now traded in his rifle and grenades for a more powerful weapon, a Bible. Like the Apostle Paul in the first century, he now carries the Gospel message to the very people he once persecuted.
Posted: October 18, 2008 - 14:29 CT
Taysir (Tass) Abu Saada was born in the Gaza Strip in 1951. After growing weary of refugee life, his parents immigrated to Saudi Arabia where he was raised a Muslim and was taught to hate the Jews, even their very existence. After the Israeli victory over the Arabs in the 1967 war, his desire t0 return and fight to redeem the Arab pride boiled over. Without his family's knowledge or consent, Tass traveled to Syria and joined Arafat's PLO Fatah Forces where he was trained as a sniper and assassin to kill Jews. He later also trained Arab children to fight and kill Jews. If he found a home belonging to followers of Jesus, he would sometimes throw a grenade inside and bombard it with a barrage of machine-gun fire. He has no idea how many people were killed and wounded in such attacks.
In 1974, Tass came to the United States. He found Americans generally to be loving and caring, completely opposite of what he had been taught, so he decided to stay by marrying an American girl (Karen). He originally intended to dump her after a few years and go back to the Middle East, but God had other plans for him. Before long, he achieved success working in the hotel and restaurant industries in Kansas City, Missouri, finally opening his own restaurant. It was here that he met an American pastor named Charlie Sharpe, a man who would be an instrument in his amazing, supernatural conversion. One day, Charlie mentioned to Tass about a "spiritual connection" he enjoyed, which brought miraculous blessings and peace. When Tass asked him what this connection was, Charlie refused to tell him, saying that Tass was "not ready yet". Weeks went by as Tass pondered what this connection might be. He had trouble eating and sleeping, finally getting on his knees in front of his customers to beg Charlie to give him the secret. Charlie told him to come by his office the following week.
A Supernatural Conversion
When the day finally came, Tass rushed to Charlie's office only to be told, "Tass, to have the peace that I have, you must love the Jews". Tass, whose hatred of the Jews was still so strong that he even dreamed of poisoning Jews who frequented his restaurant, turned to leave, but Charlie persuaded him to stay and give him a few minutes. Charlie then asked him what he knew about Jesus Christ. Tass replied "I know Jesus, he's a prophet." Charlie said "Well, he's more than that. He's the Son of God... He is God". Charlie then got a Bible and placed it between them on the couch. He then began to read from the Gospel of John "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1). Tass recalls "When he started reading, I started shaking violently and I lost consciousness. The next thing I know is I'm on my knees on the floor with my hands lifted up, inviting Christ to be my Lord and Savior. I felt like a mountain lifted off my shoulder and a joy and peace came into my heart that I'd never experienced before." Charlie, with tears flowing, said "Man, I've never seen anything like this in my life," He hugged Tass and asked "Do you know what happened?" Tass, still shaking, relied "No". "You've become a Christian," Charlie told him. "Well, if the reason I'm feeling the way I'm feeling in my heart is because he is the Son of God, then I want him to be my Lord and Savior."
The next morning, Tass couldn't wait to tell his 18-year old son, Benali, who happened to be shaving at the time. When Tass blurted out to his son, "Yesterday, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior", he received a most unexpected reaction. Benali started crying, hugging his father, as shaving cream slopped all over their faces. Knowing his son was a Muslim, Tass puzzled "Wait a minute, Why are you happy for me?" To his astonishment, Benali explained the he had accepted Christ three months before, but was reluctant to tell anyone. He had asked his pastor what he should do, knowing that his father would "kill me when he finds out." The pastor told him, "Go back to your father's house and love him more." The pastor had then called a special meeting at the church, asking that a 24-hour a day prayer chain be established for Benali's family. Tass then realized that "They prayed for me for three months until they made my life so miserable that I had to look up for answers."
A New Life
Since their conversion in 1993, Tass and Karen formed the Hope for Ishmael ministry, and have been taking the message of Jesus back to the people he once hated and persecuted, the Jews and the Arab Christians, and to his former brethren, the Muslims. Tass spoke of the time, about just six months before Arafat died, when he was basically a prisoner, surrounded by Israeli troops in his bombed-out Ramallah headquarters. During this time, Arafat welcomed his former bodyguard back, fully aware of his conversion to Christianity. Taas took this opportunity to share with his former boss and childhood hero about the God of love, peace and forgiveness that he had come to know. He began the conversation by asking Arafat, "Do you know how God created man?" Arafat answered "Yes, from the dust." Tass replied "That's right, but do you know how?" After Arafat asked "How", Tass got on his knees to demonstrate as he explained that God "scooped up some dirt from the earth and shaped it into the form of a man, according to the Bible. He then breathed life into his nostrils". Taas then stood up and said to the terrorist leader, "When I think about that, I ask myself how we could take the lives of so many men." Because there were other Muslims present, Arafat would not let Tass continue. Shortly after this visit, an Egyptian pastor and friend of Taas, had an opportunity to visit with Arafat while he was alone. He reported to Tass that the terrorist leader "prayed the sinner's prayer" with him, converting to Christianity. When Tass asked, "Do you think he understood what was going on?", the pastor replied "Yes, absolutely, he was very clear." A few months later on November 11, 2004, Arafat died in a Paris hospital.
Upon Arafat's death, Tass said "When I saw that he had actually died, my heart broke. I didn't think about all that had gone astray under his leadership. I didn't think about all the graft and misrepresentation in which he had indulged. I only thought about the man himself, now facing eternity. This was my teenage hero, the courageous leader who had dared to call the Palestinian people toward their destiny. He was the man I would willingly have died to protect. Now he was nothing but another human being standing before an awesome God, giving answers to penetrating questions. I don't know what he said in that final court. I can only hope that in the recent months he had come to terms with the Lord of all the earth."
The Only Middle East Solution
As I listened to Tass speak about the current situation in the Middle East, I couldn't help but wonder how much different our government policies would be if our leaders consulted spiritual experts such as Tass Saadu, Whalid Phares, Gary Frazier and others in addition to the usual military and political "experts". Tass affirmed the fact that our government keeps approaching the Arab-Israeli conflict as a political problem that can be solved by political solutions. As I write this, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Israel trying to persuade them to give away more land for peace. As Tass can personally attest, the Arabs don't care about the land, they just want the Jews exterminated. The conflict is an age-old family feud between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael, sons of Abraham. It is a spiritual problem that requires a spiritual solution, that is, God must change hearts from hate to love.
When Tass was converted to Christianity, he felt an overwhelming love for the Jews. In the meantime, God was also working in the life of Moran Rosenblit, an Israeli soldier who had become embittered after a Palestinian suicide bomber demolished his unit, killing twenty-two soldiers, seven of which were his close friends. Becoming more depressed as the death toll from other battles kept rising, he finally left his loved ones behind, moved to England and then California, rooming with a Christian family in Manhattan Beach. As he watched them exercise their faith, His own questions about God began to surface. Attending church one day, he heard a pastor teaching about the blindness of the Jewish people from the Book of Hebrews. He angrily confronted the pastor after the service, who explained that he was not speaking against the Jewish peoples, and encouraged him to read the Bible for himself. Later, as he was reading the Bible, "The Holy Spirit just fell down on me, just filled me up," Moran recalled. "The light switch went on and from darkness I saw the light, and I accepted Jesus into my life."
In 2001, Moran attended a conference for Arab and Jewish believers. "I had friends who were Arabs but I always watched my back to make sure they wouldn't stab me in the back," he says. "Israelis can not trust Arabs and Arabs can not trust Israelis... that's a reality." During the conference, Moran shared his testimony even though he remembers that "It was hard for me to share in front of Arab people, because some of those people might have been people who killed my friends." As Moran finished his testimony, a Palestinian man approached him, confessing that "I was a Fatah fighter." Moran recalls that "I was in shock, and took a half step backward. He then looked me in the eyes and he said, 'I love you.' I can't explain what that did to my heart when he said that." The Palestinian then did something even more radical. Moran says "He asked me to forgive him in the name of his people for my friends who died from suicide bombers. It was only God's grace that allowed me to forgive him," Moran confessed. "It was not my strength that I was able to forgive him." Then Moran also sought forgiveness. He says "I asked him to forgive me for not being able to love him and trust him and for my anger... and he did." The Palestinian man who approached Moran Rosenblit that day was Tass Saadu.
Soon, small groups of Arab and Jewish believers were forming and praying together. "Here I was praying with an ex-enemy in the name of Jesus, the one and only true God," Moran marveled. Now, Tass and Moran's friendship continues to grow, speaking to one another almost daily. Moran also agrees with Tass that, with the Middle East caught in a repetitive cycle of violent revenge, many are losing hope. He says "I don't think there is a political solution. I believe there needs to be a change of heart to love. People can only live in peace together through Jesus Christ, and that's the only way to bring peace." Moran continues "Do you want a picture of the solution for the Middle East? If God changed my heart and Tass' heart he can change anyone's heart. God delivered me from this hatefulness toward Arabs and he's been teaching me to love my enemies."
Moran Rosenblit is now the executive director of Hope for Israel, reaching out with the hope and good news of Jesus Christ to Jewish people in Israel and around the world. Check out his HFI website.
See our ministry article Hope for Ishmael for more about Tass Saadu and his ministry.
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Nov 22, 2008 - 21:24
KarenFaith - Dallas, TX writes:
Wow – that’s very cool – I was happy to see your blog article on Tass and Karen! They were just here with us again all week – and we had several speaking engagements set up for them. I’m so happy that you had the opportunity to meet them – and loved the article.
You might also want to recommend the video “Forbidden Peace” that has Tass and Moran’s stories and the others of Palestinians and Jews coming together in the love of Jesus – you can order it online from Jews for Jesus.
Nov 24, 2008 - 19:48
Thanks very much for the tip and kind words, Karen. I wasn't aware that this video was available. I did some quick searching and the video is available from Jews for Jesus. I also found an old article entitled A Forbidden Peace by Naomi Rothstein.
We also encourage our readers to visit KarenFaith's ministry site, WayCoolAngels.
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