The Fox Hunt – A Memoir of Yemen and my Odyssey to America (Harper Collins: New York, 2018) reads like an action novel based in the fundamentalist and extremist Muslim world. It tells the odyssey of a young Yemeni Muslim man, Mohammed Al Samawi, who dared to challenge the template of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish attitudes in which he was raised and risked his life to escape his beloved country of birth in the midst of its murderous civil war in 2015.
Mohammed was introduced to me by a colleague, Rabbi Beth Singer of San Francisco, when he moved to Los Angeles last month. She described him as “among the most extraordinary people I have ever met…. I ask you to meet him and, if you feel as I do, to introduce him to progressive Los Angeles Jews.”
Beth’s outreach and request intrigued me, and so I contacted Mohammed, set a date for coffee, and he told me his harrowing story. The New York Times Book Review called his book “A gripping account of terror and escape.” Indeed, it is.
Mohammed was born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, raised as a devout Muslim, but developed doubts and secretly sought to understand the two religious traditions (Christianity and Judaism) that he was taught to hate. After reading secretly both the Jewish and Christian Bibles, Mohammed used the internet to find Jews to meet, traveled to Bosnia for a Muslim-Jewish conference, told his family and friends nothing of his inner quest and changing attitudes about Jews and Christians, and as civil war raged in Yemen he became a target of Al Qaida. He then desperately sought to escape from the country he loved.
Mohammed’s story was made possible by the generosity of Jewish and Israeli friends. He is the age of my sons (35) and so I felt a paternal tug of the heart as we spoke. His story is so compelling that it is about to be made into a major motion picture.
Mohammed aspires to set up homes in which Muslims, Christians, and Jews live, work, learn, and affect compassionate change in their communities together thus uniting the ethical traditions of the three great monotheistic faiths while preserving each tradition’s integrity and faith traditions. He remains a religious Muslim.
I recommend highly The Fox Hunt. I suspect you will be as inspired by Mohammed’s story as I was.