Hussein* has lived in the West Bank his entire life. He was born to an average Palestinian family in Nablus, but unlike most Palestinians, Hussein is a Zionist and he loves Israel. I met Hussein last year, and I recently had the honor to interview him.
Responses have been edited for grammar, as English is not the interviewee’s native language.
Nadiya: Where did you grow up? What was life like? What did they teach you about Israel?
Hussein: I was born in Nablus city and I grew up there. This city is set north of the West Bank and inside the city there is a very old building — very old and I never forgot it. I grew up in a big city, where people called themselves “modern.” They told themselves that they love life. The life here has no freedom, no rights — we just follow the Palestinian culture.
When I started going to school, at that time there was a big war. We started our day at school reading al-Fatiha [the first chapter of the Quran] and then we sang Palestinian songs. The songs were about fighting and defending Palestine’s land, because a lot of Palestinians’ deaths were because of Israel, so the mood was just war and hate and fighting. We were children. We didn’t know about these things. I didn’t understand these things.
They were teaching us at school and now at university that Israel wants to kill all humans and we must fight Israel and kill all Jews, and then the world will be in peace without Israel. The teachers were teaching us that we are Palestinians, and that Israel killed our fathers and grandfathers and forced us to leave from Yafo, Haifa, etc.. Everything inside the school had a lot of meaning for Palestine. We were singing Palestinian songs, not because we believed them, but because we were children. We were kids. And the most important thing for us is singing. All the stories were about how Israelis are bad people, how they killed Palestinians. At schools, and at mosques, we learned these things. So when I was 6-years-old until 10-years-old, they were teaching us these things.
Nadiya: When did you become a Zionist and why?
Hussein: When I became 11 or 12-years-old, I started not doing or believing what they taught us. I started not going to mosque. I was playing football during the prayer in the mosque. I started to realize that I don’t like to hurt people. Israelis don’t hurt me. I didn’t see them hurt me. A lot of people were destroying their own houses and blaming Israel for that, and they went to the news and screamed, “Look, Israel destroyed our home!” And then the Palestinian government gave them a lot of money to rebuild the house and with that money they can build five houses, not just one. I was laughing — they do that just for money. Anyone who did that became rich.
I was wondering why they blame Israel. In the same time, a lot of Israelis were dying because of Palestinian attacks. These things made me think to respect Israel and the Jewish people, because I saw the truth myself with my own eyes. At 13 or 14-years-old, I didn’t go to mosque anymore and started learning English language and thinking about leaving the West Bank. I know it’s impossible to leave because it’s very expensive. Then I didn’t believe Quran anymore. I started reading Torah and learning about Judaism. I became a Zionist when I saw how Israel is an amazing country, for Muslims and Christians. I became a Zionist when I was 15-years-old.
I started trying to contact Jewish people. It was very dangerous to add Jewish people on my Facebook, but Facebook was the only way I knew how to contact people from all around the world. I created a new Facebook account with a Jewish name and started to add Jewish people. Many didn’t believe me that I am Palestinian and Muslim and want to convert to Judaism.
Nadiya: What would happen if Palestinians knew you were a Zionist?
Hussein: A lot of “spies” were killed in front of me by Palestinians because they worked for Israel. Most of them weren’t spies – they were killed just because this man hated that man, so he called him a spy and killed him. It was like a zoo, and still now it’s a zoo. [laughs bitterly] If the Palestinians found out, they will kill me and then cook me and then eat me. This is how I can describe what will happen. And I realized that Sunni Muslims are taught to believe in hate and killing and fighting everywhere.
Nadiya: What do you believe now? What hopes and dreams do you have for the future?
Hussein: I believe in Judaism, and it’s a really amazing religion. My hopes and dreams are to leave from here and move to Israel or USA. I know it’s impossible, because it’s very expensive, but I will always look for a way to leave from here, by scholarship or anything else. If possible, I want to join the IDF and fight to protect Israel. I need help to get out of here. I can’t live here anymore.
Nadiya: Do you think there is hope for peace?
Hussein: Peace will never happen with Sunni Muslims. Believe me, I lived for 20 years with Sunni Muslims. All their life is praying and teaching to hate Jewish people and Israel. I hope to move from here, and leave the West Bank forever to live with peaceful people, with love, with respect.
* * *
What I heard from this Palestinian man is very disheartening, but eye-opening. I personally still have hope for peace. As a Shia Muslim, I can’t speak from the point of view of Sunnis, but I have noticed that there is a huge anti-Semitism problem in both Sunni and Shia Muslim communities. If peace is ever going to be a realistic option, we as Muslims must change our attitudes towards Jews.
Many thanks to Hussein for agreeing to this interview, and may Allah bless him and give him the strength to achieve the objectives that he set his mind to.
*Hussein is a pseudonym. His real name is withheld for safety purposes.