Tass Saada’s story is among the unlikeliest you will ever hear:
“I grew up as a Palestinian immigrant and refugee. My family ran away from their home from Jaffa near Tel Aviv to the Gaza Strip to escape the war, and they got stuck there. The war was lost and the Israelis won. And so all the Palestinians ran away from their homes and got stuck. That’s where I was born in Gaza.”
But Tass’ family was soon on the move.
“Two months after my birth, my family emigrated from the Gaza Strip to Saudi Arabia. So I grew up in Saudi Arabia, and I grew up as a Palestinian immigrant. My father did very well for himself. He fixed things like cars, and had very big connections.”
“Yet we always were referred to as immigrants and refugees. I hated that.”
Events then conspired to carry him down a dark path.
“I was sixteen when we lost the war of 1967. I thought – ‘These Arab leaders are selling us out to the Jews. I am going to go, and fight for my homeland.” So I ran away from home because my father would not let me go. I joined Yasser Arafat’s forces in Jordan and become a radical fighter against Israel and then become an assassin.”
But God was about to use Tass’ desire to harm others to bring him to a stunning moment of decision.
“I realized that, maybe, if I get some more education, I can fight the Jews with my brain instead of my weapons. That’s when I made it to America, and it was a miracle that I was able to enter with that kind of a resume.”
With centuries of hate shaping his heart, what could possibly change Tass’ attitude toward the West and Israel?
“I am telling you – because of the love of the American people. Because of the way they accepted me when I came to America. I hated America and Americans. I hated them actually just as much as I hated the Jews. But when I came to America, I was so wrong. These American people were kind, and they were loving.”
The kindness of one American in particular was the route the message of Jesus took to reach him.
“One person that really accepted me with love and respect was an American that – when I started working as a dishwasher and a busboy at a French restaurant – I went to get his dirty dishes. I was so nervous that my hands were shaking. The man looked at me with such a beautiful smile and said, ‘Thank you, young man!'”
“That began a relationship of nineteen years. This man just loved me, and treated me as an equal person when he’s a multi-billionaire!”
Over a decade later, Tass’ American friend would share the gospel with the former Fatah soldier. And he surrendered his life to Jesus. Today, Tass travels the world sharing Jesus and working for peace.
Tass Saada is the founder of Hope for Ishmael, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reconcile Arabs and Jews, and the author of the brand new book .On the Road with Tass Saada