Paul Calvert spoke with Tass Abu Saada
Tass Abu Saada, author of "Once An Arafat Man", used to believe that a good Jew was a dead Jew. Following a radical conversion experience in 1993, he became a Christian and now has a ministry in Jericho reaching out to children, with a vision to start a kindergarten in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Paul Calvert caught up with him to hear his story.
Tass: My family is originally from Jaffa. Before the war of 1948 they left Jaffa to go to Gaza. They wanted to return to Jaffa after the war, but we lost the war and they were stuck there, so I was born in the Gaza strip. I lived there for two months then my family immigrated to Saudi Arabia and that's where I grew up, in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Paul: When did you come back here?
Tass: In 2003 was my first trip as a friend of Israel. I was in the land in my youth as a PLO fighter. That meant sneaking in at night from the Jordan side into Jericho and wherever our operations were. Then 2003 was the first time I came as a believer in Jesus and I felt at home the minute I stepped out of that aeroplane at Ben Gurion airport. I had an instant feeling of belonging. It was a great feeling.
Paul: What was it that pulled you into being a PLO fighter?
Tass: After the war of 1967, I was almost 17 at the time, after the loss I couldn't understand why did we lose against Israel, we outnumbered them in everything? I felt at the time that it was my duty to fight. I went and talked to my Dad. I said to him, "Let me go and fight," but he would not let me, so I ran away from home and joined Arafat and his forces and started training and fighting for the land I believed was mine.
Paul: Did you know Arafat personally?
Tass: Yes, before I joined and naturally during that time.
Paul: I remember you said that you tried to shoot your teacher once. What happened?
Tass: Three and a half years after I joined Arafat, my father found out where I was and he asked me if I would come back. He wanted my mother to see that I am still alive and then I can go back to Jordan. My mother was having nervous breakdowns and health problems, so I immediately went. When I got in the country they took away my passport and I couldn't go anywhere and my Dad demanded that I go back to school and continue my education. I was angry, but there was nothing that I could do about it. I went back to school from 1971 to 1973. I was back in school causing problems and fights all the time. Then I got really mad at one of my teachers. I felt that I had to do something about it at the time and so I saw him one day driving in the afternoon, so I followed him with my car and when he came out of his car I came out and shot at him.
Paul: You were a sniper at the time weren't you?
Tass: I was yes; I was trained as a sniper.
Paul: So how could you miss if you were trained as a sniper?
Tass: That's the thing that shocked me, when I found out he wasn't dead the next day. I thank God that he's not dead. It was to me at the time an amazing thing because there is no way on earth that I could have missed him. He was not too far from me and I was not just a sniper I was also a sharp shooter, trained with pistols. There is no way I could miss. It had to be that God intervened. There is no question in my mind. He went down and I thought I had hit him so I got in my car and drove off, but thank God he was not, there was not even a scratch. At the time I didn't realise, but after I became a believer and reflecting back on all of this I thought, oh God thank you.