Jews, too, sometimes prefer to forget. On the left, there is a nefarious tactic of trying to portray the Jewish people as more sinning than sinned against. For those in the anti-Zionist realm, the Holocaust is an ugly snag in the narrative of an Israeli Goliath targeting a Palestinian David. But sometimes there is a desire to forget even within the staunchly pro-Israel camp. It can be tempting, in celebrating Israel’s military might, its flourishing democracy, its miraculous existence, to forget that we were not always so strong. But we cannot let that pride come at the expense of remembering who we are, which necessarily includes remembering what we as a people have endured.‘I am a Muslim Arab and an Israeli Zionist, and I love the Jewish people’
And we won’t. Jewish liturgy and tradition are peppered with the language of memory. We are commanded to remember the Sabbath. We sing about the repercussions of forgetting Jerusalem. Many blessings and prayers conclude with the exhortation that what we are doing is l’zecher yitziat Mitzraim—in memory of our exodus from Egypt. And every year, in commemorating that exodus during Passover, we contemplate our obligation to see ourselves as if we, personally, had been taken out of Egypt; we sing of how in each generation, a new enemy rises up who seeks our destruction; and we commit ourselves to telling the story to our children and our children’s children.
We are a people who understands the immeasurable power of a story told well, so we will not forget. We must ensure that the world does not either.
One of the most patriotic families in Israel lives just a few kilometers from the Gaza Strip. The father—a former Gazan—wears a medallion with the map of Israel and a Star of David around his neck, two of his sons are IDF soldiers who are willing ‘to die for the State of Israel,’ and they all feel a strong connection to Judaism. Years after being smuggled into Israel following the father’s secret collaboration with the Shin Bet, they declare: ‘We have no other country.’How did a Muslim Arab turn into a pro-Israel activist
N., a Muslim Arab resident of Gaza, traveled to Israel last summer to see her three grandchildren, two of whom are IDF soldiers. She hadn’t seen them for six years.
When she arrived in Israel, N. knew that she was ill and that her days were numbered. A female IDF soldier escorted her from the Erez Crossing to the entrance to her son’s home, in one of the Jewish communities near Gaza.
“I opened the door for her and gave her a hug,” her son, D., recalls. “She saw the children. I said to her, ‘Mother, look, my sons are in the army. My sons are soldiers.’ We hadn’t seen each other for years. I looked at her. She was happy. She asked me to take care of them, to make sure that nothing happened to them. Before we parted, she hugged my two soldiers in her arms and said to them: ‘Inshallah, I hope we will soon get to see this uniform in Gaza. When will Israel come back there? We have no life.’”
“Grandmother kissed us incessantly,” says Y., a sergeant in the IDF. “She stroked our hair and kept saying, ‘May God protect you.’”
N. stayed with her family for a month. Shortly after returning to Gaza, she passed away. “I feel so relieved,” says D., “knowing that my mother was pleased with us when she died.”
‘Metro’ tells the story of Yahya Mahamed, who said his eyes were opened to the truth about Israel. Now calling himself ‘Zionist Muslim,’ he is working at StandWithUs to help others
Sometimes we are privileged to meet rare and inspiring people, people whose life experiences are so different from our own that hearing about them provides us with a new understanding of the human spirit, a new way to see things, and a new way to think.
Yahya Mahamed is one such person. Tall, dark and slim, the first thing one notices about him is his smile.
It’s sincere and disarming and immediately evokes the feeling that a friend has been found. As his story unfolds, it becomes clear that behind those dimples is a young man of courage, humor, intelligence and a tremendous heart.
Metro sat with Mahamed at the Jerusalem office of StandWithUs, an NGO dedicated to educating people around the world about Israel. This is his story.
“I grew up in Umm el-Fahm, the third-largest Arab city in Israel. It’s a very problematic place. The Islamic Movement runs the municipality. This means they have power over everything: schools, services, who gets hired... and they are very anti-Israel. ISIS logos and swastikas are common,” he says.