by: Ilse Posselt, BFP News Corespondent
When terror strikes, international leaders and world bodies are known to come alongside the city, nation or people torn apart by hate-driven violence. For the victims, they pledge sympathy and solidarity; for the perpetrators, scorn and fury. The Temple Mount terror attack on Friday morning, 14 July, was no different.
As the people of Israel reeled in the aftermath of evil, calls of condemnation poured in from across the globe. The US, UN and various others duly registered their horror and disgust. Then, just before sunset signaled the start of Shabbat, another voice joined the chorus of outrage. This voice did not carry the command of nations or the weight of political power, yet it echoed across the Internet nevertheless.
In a video clip posted on Facebook, Yahya Mahamid, a young Arab Israeli man from the same hometown, religion and background as the Temple Mount terrorists, decried the “path of violence” his Arab brethren had chosen. He also had a bone to pick with the Arab members of Knesset, all of whom remained mum following the murders. With nobody from his community denouncing the bloodshed, Mahamid chose to stand in the gap. Squinting into the setting sun, he declared, “Now I say, I condemn what happened totally.”
Throughout the weekend, more than a quarter of a million people watched Mahamid’s message. Not all of them liked what he had to say. Comments left in Arabic branded him as everything from a “traitor” to a cowardly “dog.” Yet the brave young man appeared unfazed. This is not the first time Mahamid has taken a stand for Israel.
Mahamid identifies himself as a proud Zionist Muslim Arab. Part of his job with Stand With Us, an organization dedicated to education about Israel, entails exposing anti-Israel libels by sharing with global audiences the truth of why the Promised Land is “the best country in the world for Arab Muslims.”
Mahamid was not always an Israel advocate. Born in Umm al-Fahm, Israel’s third largest Arab town, Mahamid was raised on a diet of anti-Israel indoctrination peddled by extremist leaders. “I believed those lies,” he shares in a Stand With Us video, “that Israeli Arabs are always the victim. I was taught to hate Israel. But I overcame the hatred.”
The change of heart did not happen overnight. Aged 18, a frightened Mahamid left home to work in a Tel Aviv hotel. For the first time, the young Arab Israeli encountered those he believed to be his Jewish oppressors. Yet to his astonishment, the people from whom he expected hate, offered acceptance and friendship instead.
The turning point came in 2014, when terrorists kidnapped three Israeli teenagers. The realization that the victims could have been his friends prompted Mahamid to speak out—and inadvertently launched him on a path of advocacy. Participating in an online campaign, Mahamid posted a picture of himself holding an Israeli flag. Within moments, his post had garnered 400 notifications, including numerous death threats.
A lot has happened in the three years since the Zionist Muslim Arab took a stand for the first time. The young man who once hated Israel is now one of the Jewish state’s most ardent spokespeople. “I am a proud Israeli,” he told the South African Jewish Report. “Whenever anti-Israel people spread lies, like that Israel is an ‘Apartheid’ state, they use my name… to destroy the only place I call home.”
Mahamid is not the only Arab Israeli who stands with the Jewish state. Two years ago, Sarah Zoabi, an Arab mother from Nazareth, competed in Israel’s MasterChef. While on the air, Zoabi introduced herself to the audience as an “Arab, Muslim, Israeli, proud Zionist.”
A few seconds of stunned silence followed. It is not often these four nouns are grouped together in an introduction. Then Zoabi explained. “I believe in the right of the Jewish people to have their own country, the State of Israel.”
Zoabi also had a message for her community. “I want to say to the Arabs of Israel to wake up. Comparing us to other Arab countries, we live in paradise.” She paused, her hands busy preparing traditional pastries; then professed, “I do not have another state. I do not have another flag…There is no place better than Israel.”
Zoabi’s proclamation on national television caused a backlash within her community. Despite the persecution, she refuses to remain silent. This year, on Israel’s Independence Day, the proud Arab Muslim Zionist traveled to the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, where she posted a special birthday message to her country.
“How can I not love you, Israel?” she asked, her traditional hijab fluttering in the breeze. “Even though you suffer from Arab and Muslim terror…you respect, welcome and embrace me as an Arab, Muslim woman. There will never be another country like you. I stand proud next to your flag.”
When UNESCO declared the resting place of patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and matriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah and Leah, a historical Palestinian site, Zoabi made her way to the Cave of Patriarchs in Hebron to admonish the world body.
“Each stone…tells the story of the roots that Israel set down here,” she scolded, pointing at the pale sandstone structure where the Jewish ancestors are buried. “All of the UN’s attempts to blur history…will not succeed in erasing the right and religious and historical connection between the people of Israel and this land.”
Zoabi and Mahamid know they are not alone their conviction. Yet the price they pay for standing with Israel is often unspeakably high. “I am endangering myself by telling the truth,” Zoabi concedes. Yet the alternative, she holds, is unthinkable. “I will not be afraid. It is a disgrace that there is nobody who will admit the truth. Am Israel Chai! The people of Israel live!”
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