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Saturday, February 29, 2020

The new season of the Patron of the Arts program at the Kaplen JCC was inaugurated on Sunday evening, November 11, with a presentation by Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the seven original founders of Hamas. In her introduction to the program, Jodi Scherl, JCC board chair, expressed her own personal excitement at hosting Yousef, whose journey she has followed closely through his writings, his film and any news items she can access.

Yousef’s presentation was thoughtful, intelligent and at times even sprinkled with humor. Arrested at age 17, Yousef served several jail sentences in Israeli prisons, during which he was drawn in by the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence service, to work for them. His motivation was the hatred and revenge that he saw constantly perpetrated by Hamas on its own people. Through a chance encounter with a British tourist, Youssef started on a six-year quest, during which he jeopardized his own life and the safety of his family, and endangered the Hamas movement. He currently resides in California after seeking political asylum in the United States.

His sensational memoir, “Son of Hamas,” and subsequent acclaimed documentary film, “The Green Prince,” which will be making its U.S. theater debut this fall, have gained him international recognition. In both, he does not hesitate to reveal new information about the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization, Hamas, his own secret role in combating the organization and his forced breaking of ties with his family.

Born in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 1978, the spark that ignited Yousef’s rebellion against his community was the inhumane treatment of children within the movement. “Children were treated as ‘utilities’ within the system. They were fed Islamic dogma from infancy. They were punished severely for any infractions committed, verbally and physically. They were sent to the front lines of battles to serve as bait and easy targets.”

For Yousef, being the child of one of the main Hamas players, life was even more torturous. “My family was always in the spotlight. As the oldest child in the family, I was held to an even higher standard than the others and any small infraction on my part was met with cruel punishment. I witnessed the senseless taking of lives through the incitement of violence. That is why when I was approached by the Shin Bet, I was so open to their cause as they were determined to save innocent lives rather than sacrifice them.”

In response to whether he is in constant fear for his life, Yousef responded, “Living in fear is like living in darkness. If I surrender to fear, they have won. Even if they manage to destroy my body, I will chase them from above for eternity.”

In his continuing search for “truth,” Yousef is writing a script for a film exploring the life of Mohammed, the seventh-century prophet who is credited with the founding of Islam. Yousef believes that we cannot know for certain what the original Koran preached, as its words and truths have been manipulated to serve the agendas of hatred and violence of radical Islam. Yousef feels that by putting this revelation on the “big screen” he will be advancing the cause of peace and the containment of senseless violence.

Yousef does not consider himself a hero. Rather, he sees his mission as saving lives. He does not represent any particular organization as this would compromise his freedom. He has made choices over the years that have brought him to where he is today. Clearly, he has abandoned Islam as his religion but has not formally adopted Christianity as his new religion. He is drawn to all teachings that allow for freedom of mind and physical being.

To learn more about the many programs offered through the Kaplen JCC, visit them at jccotp.org.

By Pearl Markovitz