by Yoel Domb
Like most of the friends he grew up with, Mohammad used to throw stones at Border Policemen who patrolled his East Jerusalem village. He dreamed of attacking Jews and one day becoming a martyr. Now, after discovering that he is Jewish and meeting his Israeli grandmother, he has undergone an incredible metamorphosis and is fighting to join the same Border Police and protect Israel.
'I studied in an Israeli-funded school where the teachers taught us how to become terrorists.'
Mohammad's father, an east Jerusalem Arab, met his mother while working in Haifa as a construction worker in the early 90s. Later his father moved back to Jerusalem and took another wife. When he was five, his mother left the house and later died. "I searched for her all the time and asked where my mother was, and they said she had died and gone to G-d," said Mohammad.
He knew that his mother was Jewish but didn't realize he himself was considered a Jew. "I grew up in a Muslim house speaking Arabic, I didn't know Hebrew. I prayed five times a day, fasted in Ramadan, did everything that Muslims should do. I studied in an Israeli-funded school where the teachers taught us how to become terrorists. If there was an attack, teachers would tell us the next day how the terrorist was a martyr. It gave children the perception that this was what should be done. After school the Arab media transmitted the same message."
Mohammad was also influenced by this. His cousin committed a terror act and was considered by his peers to be a shahid, a martyr. Mohammad felt that he too wanted to be a martyr. At the age of 16 he took part in demonstrations against Israel, throwing stones at Border Policemen.
At 14 Mohammad left his house and went to live with his paternal grandfather, eventually working in construction. Then he met a Jewish person who put on Tefillin every day. One day the Jew came up to him and said he was happy to see that Mohammad respected him and did not disturb his prayers. Mohammad replied that because his mother was Jewish, he respects Jews. The man then told him that if his mother is Jewish, he himself is Jewish.
Mohammad dismissed this as a fabrication but after doing internet research, he discovered that he was registered as a Jew in the Interior Ministry. The Yad Le'Achim organization which helps Jews who wish to escape from Arab villages helped him to contact his Jewish grandmother. Two months ago he met her after a 15-year hiatus. "I hugged her and she began crying. She told me how my father had cut her off from seeing me and how he changed telephones so that she couldn't maintain contact."
Meanwhile Mohammad has changed his name to an Israeli name and is trying to join the IDF. "I wish to join the Border Police. After I fought them and threw stones at them as a kid, I want to be on the other side and protect my people. This job is made for me. I'm not scared. I know Arabic and am familiar with all the alleyways in the Old City."
Mohammad's Muslim family view him as a renegade and have even physically assaulted him. Yet this does not deter him. "They say I'm a dog and a collaborator with Jews, but I escaped from there to enlist and live as a Jew."
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