I grew up in a non-religious Muslim home in a small village in Lebanon. My family supported the Western-oriented Lebanese government. But the Beirut government was very weak, and in reality, Palestinian terrorists ruled the area. They made sure to harass and punish those of us in various ways because of our political opinions.
In 1982, the Israeli army came to Lebanon and life improved. Even before they arrived, I admired Israel. I could see the hills of northern Israel from Lebanon and wished I could go there. It seemed so peaceful. Not like Lebanon. Our lives before the Israelis came were filled with terror. The Israelis made our lives better in so many ways. The Israeli Army restored order. Suddenly everyone had a job, money, a good life and peace.
Of course, it was to their advantage as well. Anyone who wanted to live in peace accepted the Israeli presence gladly. There is a saying in Arabic: “If your neighbor is happy, then you are happy as well.”
Over time, I bonded with the Israeli soldiers. I connected with them. They were good to us and I wanted to return the favor. If I saw terrorist activity, I would tell the soldiers, so basically you could say I became an informant. Yes, in the eyes of the terrorists I was a traitor and a spy. But I wanted to have a quiet village, a normal life. The terrorists’ activities were making life difficult for us, the local people. I wanted to help get rid of them.
In 1983, Hezbollah began staging more attacks against Israel, just like Hamas is doing now. Actually Hezbollah terrorists are the same Palestinians, they just changed their name to Hezbollah in order to get Shiite support, as the area has a Shiite majority. My family is Shiite, but we continued to reject the radicals and Hezbollah began harassing my family more and more, because they knew what we thought of them. They didn’t trust us.
In 1985, Hezbollah actually tried to kill my entire family, so we fled to a town in southern Lebanon, which was near the Israeli army base that controlled the area. By day the men in our family would tend to business back in our village but at night they’d return to the safety of the south. Until one day Hezbollah ambushed us in our house. My father and I and two of my brothers were kidnapped. We were locked in an underground bunker. We were held there for a whole year. It was very difficult. They tortured me often, cut me with knives, and the worst was when they burned my nine-month-old baby son in front of my eyes. You cannot imagine the suffering I went through there.
During that year, I had lots of time to reflect. I had grown up in a non-religious Muslim home; I never went to the mosque. We didn’t even have a mosque in the village. Growing up, I never read the Koran, so I didn’t know too much about the religion. In the bunker, I found a Koran, and I started to read it. I wanted to know what Hezbollah believed. Maybe they were right and I was ignorant. To my surprise I discovered that what they preached is not in the Koran at all.
The Koran makes no mention of martyrdom or warring against the Jews. That is all the invention of the terrorist extremists. In fact, according to Islam, someone who commits suicide is not permitted to be buried in a Muslim cemetery. All the Islamic violence is for political reasons, when they started to mix religion and politics. There is nothing written about fighting. What I did find, in the opening chapters, were all these remarkable stories about the Jewish patriarchs, about the Exodus from Egypt, about the giving of the Torah. [The Koran incorporates much of the Chumash, with some specific changes according to Islamic belief.] I started to believe that God was watching over me and didn’t want me to die. My life was in His hands.
After a year in the bunker, our captors released us believing that we had all become true believers in Hezbollah’s cause. The first thing I did was go to the mosque, but when I heard the sheik say: ‘If you commit suicide and become a shaheed [martyr] you will be escorted over a river of fire and go to heaven.’ I thought to myself: If everything is so good there, why doesn’t the sheikh go himself? Besides, I had now read the Koran and knew that what he was saying was baseless. After my new realizations while imprisoned, I knew I would not follow this sheikh’s exhortation. I decided to do something else: I would try to join the inner circle of Hezbollah, in the hope to help Israel. I was determined to rid my country of Hezbollah so we can be free to practice true Islam.
At first they suspected my reasons for joining, so I explained to them that all the political problems I had had before were because of my brothers, and they shouldn’t blame me because of them. I was soon accepted into their ranks and lived among them. I saw everything. At one point, I was even part of a squad of terrorists that planned to attack an Israeli military base. That was the opportunity I was waiting for. I slipped out of the camp and hitched rides and walked and ran, until I reached the Israeli Army base in the south. I recognized some of the soldiers and gave them the information. There was one particular Israeli who had been to our house previously. I met with him privately and told him I wanted to work for Israel from within Hezbollah. He tried very hard to dissuade me.
He said “They already burned your child. If they catch you they will burn your whole family.” But I insisted. I told him: “Look what they did to me. Let me work with you. I hate them and want revenge for my baby.”
Of course, the IDF doesn’t just hire any Lebanese Muslim who claims he wants to be a spy for Israel. They have a rigorous system of background checks and personality tests. But after several months of being investigated, I became an Israeli plant in the echelons of Hezbollah.
For security reasons, I cannot discuss details of my time in Hezbollah. All I can say that I interfered with many of Hezbollah’s plans, prevented attacks and saved a lot of soldiers’ lives. I did a lot. God wanted me to succeed.
But I will tell you about that first attack I prevented. There were 150 terrorists, including suicide bombers, who were supposed to enter the base and kill many Israeli soldiers and kidnap others. I knew everything about this operation: where the missiles were; who would take part in the operation; who planned it; what vehicles would be used. I gave over all this information and, thank God, our forces prepared themselves. The Army buried mines along their intended path prior to the attack, killing many of the terrorists. I have many similar stories, how Israel dealt with those men who had the blood on their hands.
I worked from within Hezbollah for 14 years, from 1986 until 2000, helping prevent many terrorist attacks. Each time, I traversed 60 kilometers at night, to meet with the Israelis and transfer information. I loved the Israelis so much, I made the tremendous effort to reach them and bring them information. I know they relied on me to prevent attacks and I felt responsible to be a reliable conduit and bring them as much information as I could.
In 1997 some members of the group became suspicious of me. I knew my time in Lebanon was coming to a close. One wrong move and I would be killed. It was time for my dream to be realized and move to Israel. With swift planning with the Israelis, my wife and children who were young then met me at a checkpoint and we crossed over. We settled in Tzfat. I continued to assist the IDF, this time from the other side of the border, for three more years. Knowing that my family was safe in Israel gave me encouragement to serve even more. I worked at gathering information with all the security forces: the Army, the Shin Bet and Mossad. To them I was better than any other soldier because I knew the area and the people very well.
On Erev Yom Kippur, in 2000, my life changed again, this time spiritually. I was sitting on the porch with my wife, and I saw all my neighbors are going to shul. I said to my wife: “A mosque is God’s house and a synagogue is also God’s house. I want to go there.” I asked my neighbor if it was permitted for me to go, and he said yes. The rabbi of the shul of course didn’t recognize me, and he gave me a kippah to put on figuring I was a non-religious Jew.
The day after Yom Kippur, I went back to work and I told my friend there that I went to the shul on Yom Kippur and they made me feel very welcome. He started to laugh. “What were you doing there?” Despite that, I started to go more often; I was drawn to Judaism. I felt it was part of my belief, my truth. It got to the point that I wanted to convert, but everyone turned me away. Finally, after great effort and a long time studying, I was converted by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat.
My wife also converted. Today we are a regular religious family. Anyone who sees me or my children could never tell of our past. My children cannot even converse in Arabic. But now we are having this war in Gaza and I think back to my earlier days. I know how terrorists work, how Hamas thinks. They have no goals except for destruction. Their sole intention is terror and destruction. Even their own self-destruction is meaningless to them. Peace in not what they seek. With them it’s all or nothing. I have dealt with suicide bombers. They do not think like humans. They do not love themselves so they treat others with total disregard.
We have given them so many options to make peace. We worked with Arafat and Abbas. Israel wants peace so badly and what did we get in return? Dozens of terror cells and tunnels. Remember, it’s not only the Jews that Hamas is fighting. They are fighting against the Palestinian Authority as well. They just need to fight. That’s all these terrorists know. Their lives have no purpose. With God’s help we will be strong and win.
I still have connections in Lebanon. I speak to my family and others. I also know many Arabs here in Israel and believe me, most of them want to live in peace and quiet. I think 90% would prefer to live under Israel than under Arab rule.
By the way, my family is very proud of me, that I have chosen a pleasant path to live my life. We are in touch and speak often. The Koran respects Judaism. If you do not believe in Moses, you do not believe in Islam. Choosing Judaism does not go against the Koran. Islamic terror groups murdering thousands in Syria to create a Muslim state? That is going against the Koran.
People ask me if I am afraid, if I have received threats from Hezbollah. I know if they could, they would kill me. I have heard that they are looking for me. But it doesn’t concern me. I feel safe here. I am not afraid. God put me here and my soul belongs to Him.
This article originally appeared in Ami Magazine.