Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tass Saada: Muslim Sniper

Please be aware that all quotes in this summary are paraphrasing as best I recall. They are not true quotes.
Tass Saada was once a sniper for Yasser Arafat. He wrote a book called Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life. I bought two copies and already loaned them out – haven’t even read them yet.
Here’s the official bio.
Tass Saada
Tass Saada is a former Muslim and the founder of Hope for Ishmael, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reconcile Arabs and Jews. Born in 1951 in the Gaza Strip, Saada grew up in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He worked under Yasser Arafat as a Fatah fighter and sniper. Years after immigrating to America, he became a Christian.
A Palestinian Muslim, Tass hated Jews, Christians and Americans with an equal passion. He points out that the Press will try to convince the world that the conflict between Arab and Jew is political and centers on the small strip of land in Israel (I think he means Gaza). However, Tass made it very clear that the conflict is fundamental, a thing of the heart, and goes back to the time of Ishmael and Isaac. The sons of Ishmael feel they deserve part of the inheritance of the land that was promised to the sons of Isaac. I stated that in incredibly simplistic terms, but you get the idea.
As a sniper he was used by Arafat to bring death to his enemies, mostly Jewish I’d guess. After that he went to a Muslim university where he got into an argument with a teacher. He took a shot at the teacher. (Funny, he didn’t say that he didn’t hit the teacher, but he did say he didn’t kill him.) They kicked him out of school (go figure). Tass’s father wanted him to have an education in spite of this, so told him to choose either England or Egypt and he’d send him there. Tass chose the USA and didn’t waver from that, even though he wasn’t sure why he chose it. (We know, of course.)
In America Tass discovered he liked the people. Americans are not the people he was trained to think they were. Most were kind to him, and he didn’t expect that. At some point he decided he wanted to stay in the US so he asked some Palestinian friends how he could most easily do that. They told him to marry an American girl. No problem, he thought. After all, he was a great looking guy with nice clothes. (Or, as he added, he was 100 pounds lighter and had lots more hair.) What’s not to like? So he went to a night club with a friend and he walked in and looked at a girl and said “She’s the one.” The girl was there for her 21st birthday with some friends. Tass asked her to dance. She said no. He thought she must be crazy, something mentally wrong with her. But he watched her for a while longer and asked again. She said no. Now he thinks she must be blind not to want to dance with someone so obviously full of charm and good looking. His friend laughed at him and said he’d never get her to dance, and he said he would. So this time he went to ask, but was really humble. He said his English wasn’t great, but he made it worse, and he walked up to her and said. “Me like music. You dance me?” She danced with him out of pity. (Guys, take note. Women, please take note that most guys know this already. Pity works, and we don’t mind playing the pity card.) They got married. Tass’s plan was to marry, get his green card and then ditch her, but God had other plans. He’s been married now for 34 years (I think that’s the number).
His family said if he married an American girl he would have to support her, so he needed a job. The only thing he knew were guns, and that wasn’t going to work. Someone offered him a job as a dishwasher in a nice French restaurant and he said “Sure, why not?” After some months there the owner took a liking to him and asked if he wanted to learn French cooking. So he said “Sure, why not?” He points out that he is good at French cooking now (pointing at his somewhat robust figure), but it is still not as good as Mexican food, which got applause. A few weeks later the owner’s wife asked if he’d like to work with customers and he said “Sure, why not?”
The very first customer he served was a well-dressed man in a small party. Tass reached to take his plate, and he was so nervous his hand was shaking. The man noticed and stopped talking, looked Tass in the eye and said “Thank you, young man.” Tass was astounded by his kindness – he says Arabs abuse their servants, they do not thank them. Tass vowed right then he would do his best to serve this man every time he came into the restaurant. The man is still his friend.
Fast forward about 19 years and we find Tass a successful restaurant owner and businessman when this original French restaurant comes up for sale. He wants to buy it (from the second owners, not the original) and move it to a better location. His friend (I think it is the same as the man from that table) helps him look for a location and calls him with an address. Perfect spot, he says. No, says Tass, I looked at that the other day, and it is a perfect spot, but it was once a mortuary and the place gives me the creeps. (Muslims believe that the places where dead bodies reside is a place occupied by demons and evil spirits. Tass mentioned this – I didn’t know it.)
His friend, for the first time in their entire relationship, laughs at Tass and says “Tass, the reason you are creeped out is that you do not fear God.” Tass says “I am a good Muslim. Of course I fear God.” The man says “No, you only think you do. You don’t really know Him. But I can help.” Pointing to Heaven he says “I have connections.” The conversation was over.
But for three days that phrase haunted Tass. “I have connections.” What does that mean? How does it apply to me? What kind of connections? It got to the point where Tass could not sleep, could not eat, could not drink. He was chain smoking and wondering about “I have connections.”
Finally he tracks his friend down at one of his own restaurants and drops to his knees by the table and says to him “What do you mean ‘I have connections?’ Tell me. I can’t sleep or eat. I have to know.” His friend says “Tass, get up off the floor. This is your restaurant. People will think you are nuts. Call me tomorrow afternoon and I will explain.”
The next afternoon Tass calls him and he says “Come to my house.” Tass says he cannot; he is too tired and too upset and will wreck the car. His friend says “I’ll be right there.” Twenty minutes later he picks Tass up and they head to his house. On the way he is telling Tass all about the things God has done in his life, and Tass is thinking who is this guy? They are walking into the front door of the man’s house and he is behind Tass and says “And, Tass, you have to love the Jews.” Tass gets upset. The man calms him down a bit and sits him down. “Tass you have to believe in Jesus.”
“I believe in Jesus. All Muslims believe in him. He was a great prophet.”
“Tass, He was more than that. He is the Son of God.”
Now Tass is upset and gets up, pretty angry. “You’re talking blasphemy,” he says, “and I have to leave.”
His friend replies, “Just give me one more minute Tass,” And Tass sits as the man puts a Bible on the table between them. Tass jumps back. “What’s the matter, Tass? It is only paper and ink.”
“It is the word of God,” says Tass, though he doesn’t know why he said that, since Muslims do not believe the Bible is the word of God. (Again, Tass said this. I did not know it.)
“So you think that this is the word of God, Tass? Let me just read to you what it says about Jesus. It will only take a minute.” And he reads John 1:1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Tass says that is all he heard. As his friend was reading his entire body began to shake. When he was aware again he was on his face, on the floor, with his hands raised to Heaven. His friend was pale. “Are you okay? What happened?” asked Tass.
“I was reading, and you started shaking, then you were lifted up off the couch and placed on your face on the floor, hands raised to Heaven and you were speaking a language I’ve never heard. I don’t know what it is, but I like it.”
Tass accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. He went home and his son was shaving. Tass said “Son, there is something I have to tell you. I accepted Jesus as my Lord, and I think that makes me a Christian.” His son started crying and threw his arms around Tass and said “Dad, I’m so happy for you.” And Tass is crying and then begins to wonder why is he happy for me? And his son says “I accepted Jesus three months ago.” Forty-five days later his wife accepted Jesus (she was Catholic). He kids her that it took a Muslim to bring a Catholic to Jesus. (It’s a joke; I know a lot of saved Catholics and admire them all.)
One more story about Tass. After he spoke at our church four years ago he was told (by God) that he needed to move back to the Gaza strip (in Israel). He said, as many of us would, “Please God. Why not Hawaii?” But off he goes to Gaza.
He is on the Hamas hit list there. He and his wife were somewhere and suddenly four or five gunmen stepped out of the shadows. They had machine guns. He told his wife “Pray, because we are going home.” He put his car in reverse as these men shot at them and he drove home fast. Forty minutes later they get home. He feels like he is in a dream and they are not injured. When he gets out to look at his car and count the bullet holes – there are none. Not one bullet hit the car.
Now you could say these guys are really bad shots. Not a chance, but you could write it off to that. Tass says don’t ever tell him that God does not protect His people miraculously.
A final story about another young man, a Palestinian in the Hamas. One night he was preparing himself for a suicide run against Israel. The explosive belt and all preparations were made. As he was sleeping he had a dream and a bright light was in his dream walking toward him. “I am Jesus. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through me. What you are about to do is evil and you should not do it.” (Again, I am paraphrasing) The young man woke up afraid and the light was in his room, still walking! He bolted out of there and ran to a local Christian church and told them he wanted to know about Jesus. They told him they do not talk to Muslims about Jesus. He ran to the Catholic Church across the street and they told him the same thing. Finally one of them told him to try the Baptist church. Sadly, the Baptist church also told him that. For months (years? I am unsure of the timeline here) he wonders about Jesus. In a university class he is taking English and learning English phrases. He goes to the teacher and says I think that what you are teaching us is phrases from the Bible and I want you to tell me more about Jesus. The teacher is quite afraid – apparently this young man has a reputation as a persecutor of Christians, and he is still Hamas. Some time goes by, the young man is persistent and the teacher finally flees to Jerusalem. He calls Tass and Tass tells him to go speak to this young man. He feels the interest is genuine. This young man is now evangelizing for Jesus, in Gaza. The Hamas is trying to find him and kill him, but he remains one step ahead of them, hiding in one place after another.

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