Once An Arafat Man by Taysir "Tass" Saada with Dean Merrill is a true story of how a former PLO sniper was transformed by the grace of God. In this book Tass shares how he was born in Gaza, grew up as a refugee in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, fought as one of Yasser Arafat's men and how he eventually moved to the United States. Of note to me was when he talked of the Palestinian children who were deprived of their childhoods because of the oppression they were under and also because they were taught to hate and fight back at such a young age. In fact, as an older teenager, he was in charge of toughening up the 9 through 13 year old boys at a Fatah training camp in Jordan (see pg. 43).
Also interesting from page 46 is that the PLO had arguments within its ranks whether they wanted to set up Palestine as a Muslim-only state or welcome people of other faiths.
I enjoyed reading Tass' impression when he first came to America. He was delighted how he was not referred to as "refugee" or "immigrant" such as he had in Saudi Arabia. He said the Americans were "congenial and open." He even waited for people to put down the Palestinians and praise the Israelis, but that subject never came up. (see page 68)
His meeting with FBI agents questioning him on his involvement in Fatah was rather amusing. (pg. 80)
Tass had been in the United States living as a somewhat secular Muslim for many years before the Lord saved him. By the way, it was cute when Tass realized Jesus was a Jew since he grew up hating and killing Jews. After a while God sent him on the road sharing his story with others. He stressed how important it was for Christians to care about Muslims, and God guided him along the way to pastors and leaders who were interested in this work.
Of special interest was reading of Taysir's meeting with Arafat only 6 months before Arafat's death. He was able to share with his former hero how his life had been radically change from one of hate to one of love.
Also interesting from page 158 -- Taysir asked the tour guide in Israel if they could visit Ramallah since it was only 6 miles north of where they were touring. She politely replied that wasn't a good idea for tour groups. It made me realize that the Israelis want to keep evidence of their settlements and continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza from the eyes of tourists, and I don't blame them. I'm sure it would sway public opinion away from their favor if people could see the truth of what they are doing in the name of "security against terrorism."
When Tass and his wife later went back to Gaza to help his people, he went with no weapons this time except the ones from God -- love and compassion and practical service. On page 188, Tass writes, "We simply kept our focus on what God had asked us to do, which was lift up the spirits and hopes of these people, to let them know that they were not abandoned to violence and terror. Somebody cared. And why did we care? Because of the love that Jesus Christ had placed in our hearts."
I enjoyed the idol talk (thinking we must have a certain outcome in order to be happy, secure and fulfilled) on page 225 and also Taysir's ideas about hope for the Middle East in the last couple of chapters.
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